Beyond the Shadow of Camptown: Korean Military Brides in America. By Ji-Yeon Yuh. New York: New York University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8147-9698-2. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvii, 283. $29.95.
One of the aspects of war that most Americans are inclined to ignore is that while wars end and nations forget, the impact of the wars never really ends. Among these long-term effects are everything from "flashbacks" to major alterations in the social and cultural context of the nation.
In her delightfully sensitive book, Beyond the Shadow of Camptown, Professor Ji-Yeon Yuh has dramatically drawn our attention to one of the long-term and vital outcomes of America's involvement in foreign wars; the Korean war bride. Korean women who became the brides of American servicemen—black and white—and who came to the United States to live, faced an appalling adjustment. It was an adjustment like the invasion of British [End Page 293] wives after World War II, but one made vastly more difficult by the extremes of cultural diversity involved. The stories of these courageous women, in dealing with everything from the harsh realities of learning the English language to the difficulties of locating familiar food, provides us both joy and heartbreak for they are eloquent examples of both failure and success.
While we can never really comprehend the circumstances, we must nevertheless acknowledge with compassion the fact that for most of the women involved it was necessary "for the sake of the family and the marriage" (p. 138) to suppress their Korean identity and the essence of their culture. But despite this feeling, we learn through the author's widespread interviews, there was some subtle multiculturalism involved as well. Not only did Korean brides learn of America and American ways but also the brides themselves served as ambassadors for a new and vastly altered American attitude. It is summed up best perhaps in this quote "[I] only thought of war when [I] thought of Korea. Now . . . [I] can think of beautiful silk dresses and fine art work" (p. 217).
Those seeking to understand war and its implications will find this
work well researched, beautifully written, and highly informative. But
more than that, it is a compassionate look at a significant period in
American history, and in American and Asian relationships. For those
who plan further inquiry the book contains an excellent bibliography of
sources in English.
Paul M. Edwards
Center for the Study of the Korean War