Hybrid Symposium

Today’s Challenges: Transitions in South Korea-US Relations, Koreans in the US, and Black-Korean Ties

Panel I: Historical Perspective on the US-Korea Relations

Session I of this symposium highlights the interconnectivity between the US white nationalism and the structural forces of racialization of Koreans. It explores the dominant narrative of post-1945 history of Korean American and the Korea-US relations that have been told largely in the framework of “immigrants” and “immigration” in the context of the cold war liberalism that was considered to be mutually beneficial. What is obscured in the process is the long history of the transpacific movement of the Koreans was deeply imbricated in the military intervention and national security build-up of the US, as well as its exclusionary ideology that was often passed as humanitarianism, as in the case of the adoption of Korean war orphans. What is also missing is the rich history of Korean Americans’ radical political imaginaries to resist the empire and the state violence.


Moon-ho Jung is Professor of History and the Harry Bridges Chair in Labor Studies at the University of Washington, where he teaches courses on race, politics, and Asian American history. He is the author of Menace to Empire: Anticolonial Solidarities and the Transpacific Origins of the US Security State (University of California Press, 2022) and Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

Joo Ok Kim is assistant professor of cultural studies in the Department of Literature at UC San Diego. She is author of Warring Genealogies: Race, Kinship, and the Korean War (Temple UP, 2022). Her research and teaching interests include transpacific critique, literatures and cultures of the Korean War, and US multiethnic literature and culture.

Paper Abstracts

Moon-Ho Jung, Professor of History & Harry Bridges Chair in Labor Studies at the University of Washington

Michin Nara: Why America Is Not in the Heart

In the film Sa-I-Gu (1993), a Korean American interviewee denounces the United States repeatedly and emphatically as “Michin Nara,” a crazy country that resembled nothing of the “Mi Gook” she had heard about in Korea. Using stories of Korean efforts in Hawai‘i, North America, and elsewhere to engage the US state and to forge an anticolonial movement before World War II, my presentation will suggest that Korean American politics historically encompassed radical visions that critiqued and exceeded the US empire.

Joo Ok Kim, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies in the Department of Literature at UC San Diego

Warring Genealogies: Race, Kinship, and the Korean War

This presentation examines the ways kinship was leveraged to buttress white nationalism during the Korean War. How and why did white prisoners in a federal penitentiary adopt, by proxy, a Korean boy following the Korean War? What’s the role of white supremacist women’s organizations in Korean War memorialization? This talk traces the unended Korean War’s impacts amid contemporary configurations of white supremacist violence.