▲ Professors at the KU ARI. Photographed by Lee Min Jung.
The first discourse of “A New Understanding on the Northeast Asian History Through the Okinawa History” lecture series, was hosted by the Korea University (KU) Asiatic Research Institute (ARI) in November 3. Since 2015, ARI has been giving lectures comparing world’s history “to cultivate global citizenship among the professors and the students.” So far, it has covered the histories of Poland, Mongol, and Taiwan. The lecture series is composed of four lectures in total, each given by different lecturers, on different times of Okinawa. This time, Professor Choi In Taek (Japanese Language and Literature, Dong-Ah University) gave an overall introduction on Okinawa, a Japanese island located at the very south of Japan.
Professor Choi explained that the studies of Okinawa play a significant role in understanding Northeast Asian history. Okinawa is the link island that brought the Northeast Asian countries together with its geographical advantage, as shown in historical “triangular trade.” Also, it offers a better understanding of Japanese colonial time. He also explained that at the time when Okinawa was called Ryukyu, it was colonized by an ancient Japanese country, Satsuma. After the attack of Satsuma, it was also forced to merge into Japan. Therefore, it can be considered as an antecedent of Japanese colonization and a comparative example.
The forced amalgamation resulted in a series of problems for the people of Okinawa, the biggest one being the U.S. military base that now occupies 70.6 percent of the island. An incident at 1995, where three U.S. navy soldiers gang-raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl, is still a shock for many of the Japanese. Okinawa people, even the young ones, have a stronger identity as the citizens of Okinawa, rather than as Japanese, which demonstrates how much suffering the Okinawa people had to go through because of the Japanese government. The problems that occurred after the merger will be discussed in details at the upcoming lecture of the series on November 10.