restricted access Imagining Kin: Cold War Sentimentalism and the Korean Children’s Choir

In this essay, I investigate how Korean Children’s Choirs that toured the United States in the 1950s and 1960s helped rewrite America’s relationship with Korea and Asia more broadly. I situate the choristers within the context of transnational adoption to explore the political stakes of the Korean child during the early Cold War. On the heels of the costly Korean War, the young performers represented the democratic possibilities of Korea, thereby justifying US intervention, past and present. For the South Korean government, the choirs were among several carefully crafted cultural productions sent to the United States in an attempt to replace existing conceptions of an impoverished Korea with images of resiliency and capability—critical attributes of a nation seeking sovereignty. Yet while the political agendas of each government remained clear, the children’s choirs also set in motion interpersonal relationships that tied Americans to Koreans in new ways. For the first time on a large scale, Americans saw Korean children in an American context, a juxtaposition that deepened sentimental connections and allowed many to imagine what it might be like to have the children in the United States permanently.