Immigrants on the front line: Korean military brides in America, 1950-1996

Ji-Yeon Yuh, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This history of Korean military brides, women who married American soldiers and immigrated to the United States as their wives, argues that they have been immigrants on the front line for the past fifty years. They have been on the front line of Korea-U.S. cultural and social contact, as well as on the front line of post-World War II Korean migration to America. It explores the ways in which their experiences have intersected with both Korean history and American history in the second half of the twentieth century, and argues for the significance of this front line and the women who have lived there in understanding issues of transnational culture and community. Based primarily on oral history interviews and three years of fieldwork in Korean military bride communities, this study firmly places their history within a context of U.S. military domination over Korea and militarized prostitution, discussing its far-ranging effects on Korean society, Korean migration to America and marriages between Korean women and American soldiers. It argues that although many women have no personal connection to militarized prostitution, its very existence and the presumption that military brides are former military prostitutes deeply influence their life experiences. It also places their history within the context of Korean migration, highlighting the importance of women in that history by discussing the influence military brides have had on migration to the United States and the relationships between military brides and other Korean immigrants. Korean migration to America is thus placed within a framework of U.S.-Korea relations that focuses on the social impact of those relations, and the history of Korean military brides is presented as one key portion of the overall history of Korean migration. In telling this history of Korean military brides, the study also explores the dynamics of immigrant life within the domestic context of American culture and society and the international context of U.S.-Korea relations. It argues that the women negotiate complex racial and gender dynamics within both the home and society at large through a mix of resistance and compliance, as well as with the creation of their own community. Thus a story of culture and identity, a story of multiculturalism, resistance and the imagined community of national and transnational culture, is embedded throughout this study.

Subject Area

American history|Womens studies|History|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Yuh, Ji-Yeon, "Immigrants on the front line: Korean military brides in America, 1950-1996" (1999). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9926221.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI9926221

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