Hybrid Symposium

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

Panel II: Changes in Inter-ethnic Relationships in the US


While the global US predominance has receded, US’s oversized influence in Asia remains. Session II examines the changing relations between US-SK in the context of its shift from the cold war dominated national security issues to cooperation on issues such as human rights, climate change, and sustainable development. While both countries have renewed their pledge to promote and further engage with the international community to protect democracy and peace, and to roll back the advance of democratic erosion and autocratization, the cold war formations remain in the Pacific-Asia. The San Francisco Treaty of 1951, for example, contributed to severe disruption in normalizing postwar international relations and to militarization of the region. It has also further destabilized the regional peace as both the US and Japan continue to refer to it as a means of denying war claims of former victims of Japanese imperial atrocities in the Asia-Pacific War.  

Speakers

Crystal Anderson works within the fields of Transnational American Studies, Black Internationalism and Global Asias, focusing on cultural studies, including popular culture, media studies, visual culture, audience reception and literature. Her 2020 book, Soul in Seoul: African American Music and K-pop, explores the impact of African American popular music on contemporary Korean pop, R&B and hip-hop and the role of global fans as the music press.

Kyeyoung Park is professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of the book, LA Rising: Korean Relations with Blacks and Latinos after Civil Unrest (2019; paperback 2021), published by Lexington Books.  Her first book, The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City (1997), by Cornell University Press, is the winner of the Association for Asian American Studies’ Book Award.  She is coauthor of Korean Americans Ethnic Relationship in (Multiethnic) Los Angeles태평양을 넘어서: 글로벌시대 재미한인의 삶과 활동 (Cross the Pacific: The Lives of Korean Americans and their Socio-Political Engagement in the Global Age), 글로벌시대 재미한인 연구: 이론적 리뷰와 새로운 방향모색 (KOREAN AMERICAN STUDIES IN THE GLOBAL AGE: CRITICAL  LITERATURE REVIEWS IN SEARCH OF NEW THEORETICAL  FRAMEWORKS) and coeditor of Korean American Economy and Community In The 21st Century.  In addition, she edited or co-edited three special issues of peer-reviewed journals: Second Generation Asian Americans’ Ethnic Identity (1999 Amerasia Journal), How Do Asian Americans Create Places? Los Angeles and Beyond (2008 Amerasia Journal), and Emigration and Immigration: The Case of Korea (2014 Urban Anthropology).  Her current research projects are about the Korean immigrant communities in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay and the second generation Korean American Transnationalism.

Saundra Henderson Windom, celebrated author and educator is currently the author of the book Orchestration. A celebrated and decorated educator with 40+ years of experience, ultimately retiring as principal of Alonzo A. Crim Open High school in Atlanta, Georgia. Known by her Korean name, Chang, Bang Sun to her family but friends affectionately call her Sandy. Her administrative staff adds yet another moniker as they jokingly call her “Forrest Gump” because of her vast life experiences and stories. A mixed-race orphan of the Korean War, she was adopted into an African American family in Compton, California in 1958. Saundra loved learning and excelled academically earning her undergraduate degree from Stanford and her Masters from the University of Southern California.

Paper Abstracts

Crystal Anderson, Instructor of African and African American Studies at George Mason University

Reply 1992: Black Engagement with Korean Popular Culture

The Reply K-drama series features a timeline that alternates between the past and the present, and provides an ideal framework for exploring how engagement with Korean popular culture by African Americans changed between 1992 and 2022. 1992 has come to represent a flashpoint for Black/Korean relations in the United States, which has had global ramifications on the perception of both groups. In the years prior to and following 1992, there was virtually no discernable engagement by American Blacks with Korean popular culture. At the same time, American popular culture, particularly film and music, depicted tense interactions between Blacks and Korean immigrants in the United States. However, in the intervening years leading up to 2022, African Americans have engaged with Korean popular culture at an unprecedented rate. Using Black YouTube reaction videos to K-drama, this presentation will show how Black engagement with Korean popular culture represents a sharp departure from the kinds of engagement promoted in 1992.  As a result, this engagement has resulted in a broader understanding of Korean culture. 

Kyeyoung Park, Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles

How did White racism contribute to developing Black-Korean tension?

“Black-Korean tension” has been ubiquitous in America since the 1980s.  Tensions between Blacks and Koreans have been exacerbated by the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest where more than half the financial damage occurred to Korean immigrant merchants.  Accordingly, my talk revisits how Black-Korean tensions have evolved over time, in particular since the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest.  First, I’ll present an analytical model to explain how and why there have been tensions between Korean immigrant merchants and their African American customers and residents.   We can also talk about white racism in the media, financial institutions, educational settings, government and the criminal justice system, which all contributed to developing Black-Korean tension.  Take, for example, the Korean grocer Soon Ja Du, who killed Latasha Harlins, and received no prison sentence from a white judge. My interviewees did not feel any tension until they heard the verdicts.   At the same time, what I call subaltern racism, such as anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, also contributed to the tension.  Equally important, class conflict and the politics of citizenship contributed.  Secondly, there have been signs of progress in Black-Korean relations since the 1992 unrest.  To be accurate, Black-Korean tension has been for the most part contained.  I’ll discuss efforts that have been made on both from the community and the individual merchant level, in particular business practices from both the Korean and African American perspectives.  I’ll also discuss different takes on Black-Korean relations from Black and Korean perspectives.  Third, I will provide an update on the status of Black-Korean relations as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic and to reckon with racial (in)justice in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, which sparked social protest.  I will end by envisioning radical empathy and solidarity, which ideally lends itself to opening up new conversations among excluded people such as Koreans and African Americans.  There is no doubt we should be fighting against anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, systematic racism and white supremacy.

Saundra Henderson Windom, celebrated author and educator

From War-torn Korea Straight into Compton

The war cost her everything, a mother, a father, and a country. Four-year-old Bang Sun found tied to a tree, is riddled with disease, malnutrition, and bears the scars of a tragic life. Facing a future of nothing but pain, loss, and hopelessness, hear the story of a mixed-race African American child of the Korean War. When Korea begins purging itself of its unwanted casualties, babies of war, her abandonment leads to two orphanages and eventually to adoption in America – Compton, where Bang Sun must now become an American – a Black American.  Forced to give up her Korean heritage and assimilate during the volatile 60’s and 70’s that was consumed with the Civil Rights and Black and proud / Militant Movements. Her adoptive mother’s mantra, “Little girls are to be seen and not heard” contributes to her fragile identity of invisibility. Deep within she never let go of Korea. Journey along through the Orchestrations of the Korean child, Bang Sun who becomes Sandy.

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