The Politics of Memory and Gender in Memorializing the Korean War

Spring 2013
  • Graduate
Kristen Sun
Ethnic Studies
The Politics of Memory and Gender in Memorializing the Korean War

The symbol of the violated women's body, particularly by U.S. soldiers, as embodiment of the traumatized Korean nation is a common trope within South Korean films about the Korean War and its aftermath. Furthermore, sexual violence against Korean women by American soldiers is a particularly contentious topic within contemporary South Korea yet rarely depicted in spaces of national memory. These national memories of the Korean War (the war film and the war museum) are inherently masculine. However, within the American context, there is a wide body of discourse by Korean Americans on traumatic memories and the intergenerational trauma that stems from war. Scholars such as Ji-Yeon Yuh and Grace Cho discuss the legacy of Japanese colonialism (comfort women) and U.S. imperialism (military prostitutes) on women's bodies as the source of trauma for second generation Korean American women. Why is it that contemporary Korean American memories of the war and attempts to reconcile these memories gendered female? While trauma and PTSD are discussed within veterans' communities as direct forms of trauma stemming from war, why is intergenerational and "indirect" trauma feminized? My project seeks to explore the politics of memory and gender in the process(es) of memorializations of the Korean War.