Unauthorized Local Media Practices and the Paradox of Cold War Democracy in U.S.-Occupied Hokkaido

Prof. Ji Hee Jung1

1Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea

In early postwar Japan, a number of rural communities autonomously developed wired broadcasting networks to tailor the standardized mode of radio reception to the needs of disadvantaged and remote rural communities or fringe areas. Some regions used the networks not only for radio listening but also for independently programmed local broadcasting and intra-village communications. Surprisingly, this “unauthorized” local appropriation of broadcasting remained beyond the occupation’s grasp for several years, until its rapid growth in Hokkaido and the suspicion of leftist influences panicked the occupation forces into belated investigation and regulatory action around the time of the Korean War’s outbreak. Analysing previously unused materials such as internal reports and memoranda from Hokkaido Civil Affairs and surveys, I propose considering the fuss around the collective listening practice not as an isolated occurrence but as a telling signifier of the occupation forces’ inability to handle the agency of the occupied unaffected by the much-publicized postwar democratization program and the limit of the occupation’s penetrating power into local communities. In so doing, I problematize both the Japanese neo-nationalist representation of occupied Japan as a “closed discursive space” and the rather narrow boundaries of permissible autonomy defined by the occupation in the emerging Cold War.


Ji Hee Jung an assistant professor at the Institute for Japanese Studies, Seoul National University. She received her Ph.D. in history, University of California San Diego and was a JSPS postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo. She is interested in exploring the possibilities and challenges mass democracy brought to modern and contemporary world with a focus on mass media and popular culture as important intermediaries between everyday life and politics. Her publications have examined Japanese broadcasting and new media in relation to the making of modern, imperial, and postwar subjects and new challenges post-postwar Japanese society faces. Her recent works appear in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (December 2014), The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race in East Asian Empire (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2016), Seoul Journal of Japanese Studies (2017), Asian Studies Review (2018), and Hibikiau Higashiajia-shi (The Resonating History of East Asia, University of Tokyo Press, 2019).


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