“Hey, GI, Want Pretty Flower Girl?” Venereal Disease, Sanitation, and Geopolitics in US-Occupied Japan and Korea, 1945–48

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 2:10 PM
Plaza Ballroom A (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Robert Kramm, University of Konstanz
In postwar East Asia, the United States established occupational regimes in Japan and Korea in which prostitution became a contested and unsettling, but nevertheless effective, site for Japanese, Korean and US authorities. Fears of rape and other bodily-physical violence as well as rising rates of venereal diseases strongly encouraged the predominantly male desire to provide and regulate prostitution. Whereas Japanese and Korean administrators were eager to comfort the occupiers in order to protect their own populace from violation and “racial contamination” and to make an attempt to secure their sovereignty, the predominantly American occupiers were concerned about the discipline, health, and morale of the occupation personnel. However, there was a shared heteronormative logic that sexual intercourse would be inevitably connected to military masculinity and prostitution was conceived as a necessary evil: it was therefore hardly ever considered to generally abolish prostitution, but to regulate it with the aim to foster sanitized sexual relations. In order to channel and control the relationship between the occupiers and the occupied to their own needs, Japanese, Korean and American administrators re-invented and developed techniques to regulate prostitution according to their own previous domestic and overseas experiences—among them ideals of moral reform and concepts of social hygiene. The paper explores the multiple interventions in the regulation of prostitution to uncover historically specific constellations of cultural and social differentiations during the occupation period. While these regulatory practices and their discursive manifestations bear striking resemblances to previous colonial encounters, they also expose the transnational entanglements of the US-occupation of Japan and Korea in the formation of the Cold War in East Asia.
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