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2021: Environment for Smuggling in the Post-war Ryukyus

Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 19 | Issue 2 | Number 2 | Article ID 5530 | Jan 15, 2021
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

How US Occupation Forces and Pre-war Borders Created an Environment for Smuggling in the Post-war Ryukyus

Ibrahim Jalal

This article examines how the oftenoverlooked era of Okinawan smuggling in the years 1945-1950 was fostered by two factors. The first was the contradiction between US Occupation rules that forbid free trade and movement coupled with a lack of supplies essential for survival. Okinawans continued to make use of the borderland status that had existed under the Japanese Empire at the intersection with Japan, Taiwan and mainland China, While the military government branded smuggling as criminal and opportunistic, for the people of Okinawa smuggling was a necessity to survive in an economy that had been devastated by war. Local police and guards often turned a blind eye to the black market, and in some cases were even involved in the theft of goods for smuggling. Those throughout the Ryukyu Archipelago were in a unique position to trade surplus military goods and scrap metal for necessary resources such as food and building materials due to their location between Japan, Taiwan and China as the unguarded coastline made it possible to avoid detection. Even children helped gather resources for smuggling, and many women took part in the trade. During this era, the archipelago’s westernmost island of Yonaguni grew into a prosperous borderland outpost for illegal trade and the population boomed. By the mid-1950s the era of large-scale smuggling had come to an end, as harsher US clampdowns, stronger borders in Taiwan, coupled with the relaxation of measures that allowed Okinawans to freely trade gradually brought the golden age of smuggling to an end. ....

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