In the wake of the “end” of Cold War in the mid-1990s, some citizens of Japan and South Korea started travelling between the two countries. The exchange was begun in 1996 by a Korean citizen who read a news report about the mass protest campaign against the US and Japanese governments after the sexual assault of a local school girl by three American military personnel in Okinawa. It drew strong attention from this young activist, Kim Yong-han, who had also recently started an anti-US military campaign in South Korea after the rape and murder of a young female Korean by an American soldier in the early 1990s. Kim was struck most by the fact that this mass protest campaign in a small island prefecture in the southern-most fringe of the Japanese archipelago caused a temporary crisis in the US-Japan relations. This was the beginning of the grassroots anti-base solidarity movement between Okinawans and Koreans, which has continued for almost two decades.
While the transnational perspective has become one of major approaches within anti-US base movement studies, there are not enough historical studies of the anti-US base movement. The historical investigation becomes an important task when we seek to understand the transnational anti-base movement not only from “global” perspective but also from the “local” experience. Central to this is to show how local anti-base activism, which is built on a particular local history and identity, has been interacting with similar activism outside its territory and to reveal the new forms of community or identity that this transnational movement is producing across the boundaries. In this sense, the case study of Okinawa Korea People’s Solidarity (OKPS) is a key case study to understand the cross-cultural aspect within the anti-base struggle in post-Cold War Okinawa and Korea. Through the case of OKPS, I will argue that the localisation of transnational activism is a key factor to develop this trans-border civic activism, as well as transnationalisation of the local movement.
Shinnosuke (Shin) Takahashi is a PhD candidate from the Department of Pacific and Asian History. Shin plans to submit his thesis, Regionalizing the Local, Localizing the Region: The Okinawa Struggle and Place-Based Identity in September 2015. His first co-authored book, Transnational Japan as History: Empire, Migration and Social Movements (with Danton Leary and Pedro Iacobelli) will be published in November from Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series.
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