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Beyond the Shadow of Camptown

Korean Military Brides in America

Ji-Yeon Yuh

Publication Year: 2002

Since the beginning of the Korean War in 1950, nearly 100,000 Korean women have immigrated to the United States as the wives of American soldiers. Based on extensive oral interviews and archival research, Beyond the Shadow of the Camptowns tells the stories of these women, from their presumed association with U.S. military camptowns and prostitution to their struggles within the intercultural families they create in the United States.

Historian Ji-Yeon Yuh argues that military brides are a unique prism through which to view cultural and social contact between Korea and the U.S. After placing these women within the context of Korean-U.S. relations and the legacies of both Japanese and U.S. colonialism vis á vis military prostitution, Yuh goes on to explore their lives, their coping strategies with their new families, and their relationships with their Korean families and homeland. Topics range from the personal—the role of food in their lives—to the communalthe efforts of military wives to form support groups that enable them to affirm Korean identity that both American and Koreans would deny them.

Relayed with warmth and compassion, this is the first in-depth study of Korean military brides, and is a groundbreaking contribution to Asian American, women's, and "new" immigrant studies, while also providing a unique approach to military history.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

A book is never written by just one person alone, for the writing is but one step in the making of a book. This book would not have been possible without the many women who welcomed me into their homes and their lives throughout the course of my research. It is to them that the book is dedicated. They have both my gratitude and my deepest respect. Many members of the Philadelphia Korean community, especially ...

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Explanatory Notes

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p. xi

Korean names are given family name first in the Korean style for those who are in Korea, and family name last in the Western style for those in the United States.

Chronology of Selected Events in Modern Korean History

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pp. xiii-xvii

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pp. 1-8

A young Asian woman in Western clothing steps off a boat and is greeted with flowers by middle-aged Americans. She is a Korean war bride meeting her in-laws for the first time, announces the narrator, who then intones a platitude about embarking on a new American life.1

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1. Camptown, U.S.A.

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pp. 9-41

The first Korean woman to enter the United States as the bride of a U.S. citizen arrived in 1950. She was the only one that year, and in all likelihood her husband was an American soldier. In the nearly half-century since then, close to a hundred thousand Korean women have followed as brides of U.S. soldiers.1 These marriages have been made possible by the continued American military presence in South Korea, which provides the immediate context in which ...

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2. American Fever

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pp. 42-83

In addition to the dreams common to any engaged or newly-wed couple, Korean women who married American soldiers had aspirations for a better life in a new land. Like other immigrants, they sought a new start in America, the fabled land of plenty. Their hopes for a better life were shaped by war, poverty, Korean patriarchy, Japanese colonialism, and American imperialism. The narratives ...

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3. Immigrant Encounters: From Resistance to Survival

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pp. 84-125

Korean military brides did not find the fabled streets paved with gold and for the most part, their Prince Charmings didn’t remain charming forever. Too often, their encounters with America brought them deep disappointment and an acute sense of dislocation. They left familiar hardships in Korea for hardships they never imagined they would find in America, including poverty, sexism, racism, divorce, and intense loneliness.

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4. Cooking American, Eating Korean

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pp. 126-153

In the United States, where people of different cultures, races, and ethnicities have encountered each other since the beginning, food is a signifier of difference and identity.1 It is a terrain where ethnicity is contested, denigrated, and affirmed. It is an arena of struggle between Americanization and adherence to native cultural ways, where the demands are often either-or, but the lives lived are more often constructed from pieces of both.2

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5. Prodigal Daughters, Filial Daughters

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pp. 154-187

The story of the prodigal son always brings tears to her eyes. That’s us, she would tell me over coffee at McDonald’s, we who married American soldiers and left our families behind, we are prodigal daughters. Although she never sat for a formal interview, she told me bits of her life story during several meetings, always over coffee drenched in cream and sugar at the same McDonald’s. Her recurring message to me was that the lesson she had learned during some ...

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6. Sisters Do It For Themselves: Building Community

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pp. 188-221

When Mrs. Bugelli first arrived in the United States in 1957, her father-in-law clipped an article in the local newspaper about another Korean woman who had married an American. He arranged for the two women to meet. Mrs. Bugelli recalled that she was so happy to see another Korean that she could barely contain herself. It is impossible, she said, to describe her joy at meeting another Korean after being alone in a sea of foreign faces.

Biographies of Women Interviewed

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pp. 223-229

Appendix 1: A Note on Research

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pp. 231-232

Appendix 2: Overview of Scholarly Treatment of Korean Military Brides

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pp. 233-236


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pp. 237-263


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pp. 265-278


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pp. 279-281

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About the Author

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p. 283

Ji-Yeon Yuh received a doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania and is an Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University, where she teaches Asian American history and international Asian migration history. Her research interests include race and ethnicity, culture and nationalism, women and gender, memory and historical narrative, and the construction of identity. She is currently ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814789018
E-ISBN-10: 0814789013
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814796986
Print-ISBN-10: 0814796982

Page Count: 302
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 794701049
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Beyond the Shadow of Camptown

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Military spouses -- United States -- Biography.
  • Military spouses -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • War brides -- United States -- Biography.
  • Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Women.
  • Women immigrants -- United States -- Biography.
  • Korean American women -- Biography.
  • Korean Americans -- Cultural assimilation.
  • War brides -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Korean American women -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Women immigrants -- United States -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
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