From Imperial Soldiers to Military Brides: Diasporic Koreans and the Question of Loyalty

Friday, January 4, 2019: 10:30 AM
Water Tower Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Ji-Yeon Yuh, Northwestern University
This paper explores questions of identity, belonging, and citizenship through the oral history narratives of diasporic Korean men and women with close ties to various militaries. The experiences of Korean men in the Japanese imperial military, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, and the military forces of the newly created Korean nation-states foregrounds and questions the relationship between military service, citizenship, and national identity. The experiences of Korean women who married American soldiers highlights the gendered nature of military experiences and issues of belonging. Both pivot on interpretations and images of loyalty. Based on the oral histories of ethnic Koreans from China and the United States, the paper probes the complex entanglements arising from their experiences of colonialism, war, nation-building, and migration. Part of a larger project on Korean diaspora, this paper demonstrates the ongoing significance of the war for Koreans globally and the ways in which the politics of division force individuals to reassess their relationship to the two Koreas and reconsider not only identity, but also belonging and even citizenship.
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