University of California, Riverside, United States
My dissertation critiques Korean American nationalism in Korean American fictions of the ‘comfort women’ issue. There are four fictions of the issue: Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Women (1997), Therese Park’s A Gift of the Emperor (1997), Chang-rae Lee’s A Gesture Life (1999), and Mary Lynn Bracht’s White Chrysanthemum (2018). My dissertation theorizes and critiques what I call the “Korean Americanization” of the ‘comfort women’ issue, or the Korean American literary appropriation of the ‘comfort women’ issue. I critique this cultural appropriation through the lens of Korean Americans’ assimilationist desire that leads to the Korean American right-wing alignment with U.S. cold-war imperialism. The consequence of this alignment is the legitimization of Korean Americans as a American nationa(list) subject. There are three phases of the Korean Americanization of the ‘comfort women’ issue. First, it diasporizes a comfort woman character, which is the leitmotif of Korean American literature of the ‘comfort women’ issue. This diasporization transforms a comfort woman from a Korean national to a Korean/Asian woman. Second, based on this diasporization, the novel discursively links the ‘comfort women’ issue with issues of racialized gendered oppression of Asian Americans. Last, this discursive link enables what Laura Hyun Yi Kang calls “a double-voicing,” or the focalization of a Korean American writer’s voice with a Korean comfort woman character’s (“Conjuring “Comfort Women”” 32). The Korean American literary right-wing alignment with U.S. cold-war imperialism has us consider the im/possibility of becoming a national subject without assimilation.