The Making of North Korean Americans in the Afterlife of Cold War Cultural Politics

Event time: 
Tuesday, April 4, 2023 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Henry R. Luce Hall LUCE, 203 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Na-Rae Kim - University of Connecticut, Assistant Professor in Residence and Associate Director for Asian and Asian American Studies Institute
Event description: 

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 North Korean defector Yeonmi Park’s memoir, In Order to Live: A North Korean Girls’ Journey to Freedom (2015). I argue that the North Korean people are increasingly being recognized and imagined as a potential next wave of immigrant 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.
Na-Rae Kim is an Assistant Professor in Residence and the Associate Director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut-Storrs. She is a multidisciplinary scholar with research and teaching specialties in transnational Korean literature, Asian American literature, history and theory of the novel, and Critical Asian studies. Her book project, entitled Re-Turning Korea: Navigating Homelands in Korean American Literature, explores 21-Century Korean American literary imaginations of South and North Korea. Her works have been published or are forthcoming in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature and Culture, Imperial Coordinates: Militarism and Asian Americanist Critique, and Journal of Asian American Studies among others.