Militarized Modernity and Gendered Citizenship in South Korea

Duke University Press
Free sample

This pathbreaking study presents a feminist analysis of the politics of membership in the South Korean nation over the past four decades. Seungsook Moon examines the ambitious effort by which South Korea transformed itself into a modern industrial and militarized nation. She demonstrates that the pursuit of modernity in South Korea involved the construction of the anticommunist national identity and a massive effort to mold the populace into useful, docile members of the state. This process, which she terms “militarized modernity,” treated men and women differently. Men were mobilized for mandatory military service and then, as conscripts, utilized as workers and researchers in the industrializing economy. Women were consigned to lesser factory jobs, and their roles as members of the modern nation were defined largely in terms of biological reproduction and household management.

Moon situates militarized modernity in the historical context of colonialism and nationalism in the twentieth century. She follows the course of militarized modernity in South Korea from its development in the early 1960s through its peak in the 1970s and its decline after rule by military dictatorship ceased in 1987. She highlights the crucial role of the Cold War in South Korea’s militarization and the continuities in the disciplinary tactics used by the Japanese colonial rulers and the postcolonial military regimes. Moon reveals how, in the years since 1987, various social movements—particularly the women’s and labor movements—began the still-ongoing process of revitalizing South Korean civil society and forging citizenship as a new form of membership in the democratizing nation.

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About the author

Seungsook Moon is Associate Professor of Sociology at Vassar College.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Sep 30, 2005
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780822387312
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / Korea
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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South Koreans in the Debt Crisis is a detailed examination of the logic underlying the neoliberal welfare state that South Korea created in response to the devastating Asian Debt Crisis (1997–2001). Jesook Song argues that while the government proclaimed that it would guarantee all South Koreans a minimum standard of living, it prioritized assisting those citizens perceived as embodying the neoliberal ideals of employability, flexibility, and self-sufficiency. Song demonstrates that the government was not alone in drawing distinctions between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. Progressive intellectuals, activists, and organizations also participated in the neoliberal reform project. Song traces the circulation of neoliberal concepts throughout South Korean society, among government officials, the media, intellectuals, NGO members, and educated underemployed people working in public works programs. She analyzes the embrace of partnerships between NGOs and the government, the frequent invocation of a pervasive decline in family values, the resurrection of conservative gender norms and practices, and the promotion of entrepreneurship as the key to survival.

Drawing on her experience during the crisis as an employee in a public works program in Seoul, Song provides an ethnographic assessment of the efforts of the state and civilians to regulate social insecurity, instability, and inequality through assistance programs. She focuses specifically on efforts to help two populations deemed worthy of state subsidies: the “IMF homeless,” people temporarily homeless but considered employable, and the “new intellectuals,” young adults who had become professionally redundant during the crisis but had the high-tech skills necessary to lead a transformed post-crisis South Korea.

A sweeping new look at the unheralded transformation that is eroding the foundations of American exceptionalism.

Americans today find themselves mired in an era of uncertainty and frustration. The nation's safety net is pulling apart under its own weight; political compromise is viewed as a form of defeat; and our faith in the enduring concept of American exceptionalism appears increasingly outdated.

But the American Age may not be ending. In The Vanishing Neighbor, Marc J. Dunkelman identifies an epochal shift in the structure of American life—a shift unnoticed by many. Routines that once put doctors and lawyers in touch with grocers and plumbers—interactions that encouraged debate and cultivated compromise—have changed dramatically since the postwar era. Both technology and the new routines of everyday life connect tight-knit circles and expand the breadth of our social landscapes, but they've sapped the commonplace, incidental interactions that for centuries have built local communities and fostered healthy debate.

The disappearance of these once-central relationships—between people who are familiar but not close, or friendly but not intimate—lies at the root of America's economic woes and political gridlock. The institutions that were erected to support what Tocqueville called the "township"—that unique locus of the power of citizens—are failing because they haven't yet been molded to the realities of the new American community.

It's time we moved beyond the debate over whether the changes being made to American life are good or bad and focus instead on understanding the tradeoffs. Our cities are less racially segregated than in decades past, but we’ve become less cognizant of what's happening in the lives of people from different economic backgrounds, education levels, or age groups. Familiar divisions have been replaced by cross-cutting networks—with profound effects for the way we resolve conflicts, spur innovation, and care for those in need.

The good news is that the very transformation at the heart of our current anxiety holds the promise of more hope and prosperity than would have been possible under the old order. The Vanishing Neighbor argues persuasively that to win the future we need to adapt yesterday’s institutions to the realities of the twenty-first-century American community.

In the center of Mumbai, next to the city’s newest and most expensive commercial developments, lies one of Asia’s largest slums, where as many as one million squatters live in makeshift housing on one square mile of government land. This is the notorious Dharavi district, best known from the movie Slumdog Millionaire. In recent years, cities from Delhi to Rio de Janeiro have demolished similar slums, at times violently evicting their residents, to make way for development. But Dharavi and its residents have endured for a century, holding on to what is now some of Mumbai’s most valuable land.

In The Durable Slum, Liza Weinstein draws on a decade of work, including more than a year of firsthand research in Dharavi, to explain how, despite innumerable threats, the slum has persisted for so long, achieving a precarious stability. She describes how economic globalization and rapid urban development are pressuring Indian authorities to eradicate and redevelop Dharavi—and how political conflict, bureaucratic fragmentation, and community resistance have kept the bulldozers at bay. Today the latest ambitious plan for Dharavi’s transformation has been stalled, yet the threat of eviction remains, and most residents and observers are simply waiting for the project to be revived or replaced by an even grander scheme.

Dharavi’s remarkable story presents important lessons for a world in which most population growth happens in urban slums even as brutal removals increase. From Nairobi’s Kibera to Manila’s Tondo, megaslums may be more durable than they appear, their residents retaining a fragile but hard-won right to stay put.

With a New Foreword

The heartwrenching New York Times bestseller about the only known person born inside a North Korean prison camp to have escaped. 

North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.

In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.

The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.

Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequalled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival and hope.

In the midst of China’s post-Mao market reforms, the old status hierarchy is collapsing. Who will determine what will take its place? In Creating Market Socialism, the sociologist Carolyn L. Hsu demonstrates the central role of ordinary people—rather than state or market elites—in creating new institutions for determining status in China. Hsu explores the emerging hierarchy, which is based on the concept of suzhi, or quality. In suzhi ideology, human capital and educational credentials are the most important measures of status and class position. Hsu reveals how, through their words and actions, ordinary citizens decide what jobs or roles within society mark individuals with suzhi, designating them “quality people.”

Hsu’s ethnographic research, conducted in the city of Harbin in northwestern China, included participant observation at twenty workplaces and interviews with working adults from a range of professions. By analyzing the shared stories about status and class, jobs and careers, and aspirations and hopes that circulate among Harbiners from all walks of life, Hsu reveals the logic underlying the emerging stratification system. In the post-socialist era, Harbiners must confront a fast-changing and bewildering institutional landscape. Their collective narratives serve to create meaning and order in the midst of this confusion. Harbiners collectively agree that “intellectuals” (scientists, educators, and professionals) are the most respected within the new social order, because they contribute the most to Chinese society, whether that contribution is understood in terms of traditional morality, socialist service, or technological and economic progress. Harbiners understand human capital as an accurate measure of a person’s status. Their collective narratives about suzhi shape their career choices, judgments, and child-rearing practices, and therefore the new practices and institutions developing in post-socialist China.

“I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.”

Yeonmi Park has told the harrowing story of her escape from North Korea as a child many times, but never before has she revealed the most intimate and devastating details of the repressive society she was raised in and the enormous price she paid to escape.

Park’s family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country’s dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.

I wasn’t dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea. I didn’t even know what it meant to be free. All I knew was that if my family stayed behind, we would probably die—from starvation, from disease, from the inhuman conditions of a prison labor camp. The hunger had become unbearable; I was willing to risk my life for the promise of a bowl of rice. But there was more to our journey than our own survival. My mother and I were searching for my older sister, Eunmi, who had left for China a few days earlier and had not been heard from since.

Park knew the journey would be difficult, but could not have imagined the extent of the hardship to come. Those years in China cost Park her childhood, and nearly her life.  By the time she and her mother made their way to South Korea two years later, her father was dead and her sister was still missing. Before now, only her mother knew what really happened between the time they crossed the Yalu river into China and when they followed the stars through the frigid Gobi Desert to freedom. As she writes, “I convinced myself that a lot of what I had experienced never happened. I taught myself to forget the rest.”

In In Order to Live, Park shines a light not just into the darkest corners of life in North Korea, describing the deprivation and deception she endured and which millions of North Korean people continue to endure to this day, but also onto her own most painful and difficult memories. She tells with bravery and dignity for the first time the story of how she and her mother were betrayed and sold into sexual slavery in China and forced to suffer terrible psychological and physical hardship before they finally made their way to Seoul, South Korea—and to freedom.

Still in her early twenties, Yeonmi Park has lived through experiences that few people of any age will ever know—and most people would never recover from. Park confronts her past with a startling resilience, refusing to be defeated or defined by the circumstances of her former life in North Korea and China. In spite of everything, she has never stopped being proud of where she is from, and never stopped striving for a better life. Indeed, today she is a human rights activist working determinedly to bring attention to the oppression taking place in her home country.

Park’s testimony is rare, edifying, and terribly important, and the story she tells in In Order to Live is heartbreaking and unimaginable, but never without hope. Her voice is riveting and dignified. This is the human spirit at its most indomitable.
A haunting account of teaching English to the sons of North Korea's ruling class during the last six months of Kim Jong-il's reign
 
Every day, three times a day, the students march in two straight lines, singing praises to Kim Jong-il and North Korea: Without you, there is no motherland. Without you, there is no us. It is a chilling scene, but gradually Suki Kim, too, learns the tune and, without noticing, begins to hum it. It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields—except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room, and where Suki has gone undercover as a missionary and a teacher. Over the next six months, she will eat three meals a day with her young charges and struggle to teach them English, all under the watchful eye of the regime.

Life at PUST is lonely and claustrophobic, especially for Suki, whose letters are read by censors and who must hide her notes and photographs not only from her minders but from her colleagues—evangelical Christian missionaries who don't know or choose to ignore that Suki doesn't share their faith. As the weeks pass, she is mystified by how easily her students lie, unnerved by their obedience to the regime. At the same time, they offer Suki tantalizing glimpses of their private selves—their boyish enthusiasm, their eagerness to please, the flashes of curiosity that have not yet been extinguished. She in turn begins to hint at the existence of a world beyond their own—at such exotic activities as surfing the Internet or traveling freely and, more dangerously, at electoral democracy and other ideas forbidden in a country where defectors risk torture and execution. But when Kim Jong-il dies, and the boys she has come to love appear devastated, she wonders whether the gulf between her world and theirs can ever be bridged.

Without You, There Is No Us offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world's most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls "soldiers and slaves."
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