The Council on East Asian Studies presents
Na-Rae Kim - University of Connecticut, Assistant Professor in Residence and Associate Director for Asian and Asian American Studies Institute:
“The Making of North Korean Americans in the Afterlife of Cold War Cultural Politics.”
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.