The Making of North Korean Americans in the Afterlife of U.S. Cold War Cultural Politics
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
This talk examines some of the cultural and legal ways North Korean refugees are now being groomed to become an assimilable population to the United States, with a focus on two Korean American texts that were published in 2015: North Korean defector Yeonmi Park’s memoir, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girls’ Journey to Freedom, and Korean American writer Suki Kim’s investigative journalism book, Without You There is no Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite. I argue that the North Korean people are increasingly being recognized and imagined as a potential next wave of immigrant Americans, or, more precisely, Asian Americans, even though there is a simultaneous political and societal refusal to practically actualize this possibility. My analysis demonstrates that contemporary representations of North Korea tend to narrativize a Cold War legacy pattern of rehabilitation. Recognizing this calls on us to re-think current humanitarian and human rights frameworks in conceptualizing North Koreans, the subject division between immigrant/refugee, and the function of “empathy” in producing a North Korean subject in the American imaginary.
Speaker: Na-Rae Kim, University of Connecticut-Storrs