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In Session: Transpacific Currents: Critical Approaches to Understanding Links Between Northeast Asia and Latin America
3: A Neighbor’s Embrace?: The Divided Korean Peninsula, Chile, and Trajectories of Detente, 1970-1973
Monday, March 22, 2021
12:30pm – 2:00pm EDT
Eilin R. Perez
University of Chicago, United States
In 1971, Pablo Neruda produced a memorandum detailing the road to détente between North and South Korea. In his capacity as a member of the diplomatic corps of the government of the newly-elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, Neruda approached his new position with an acute understanding of the ongoing processes of the Cold War and decolonization. Yet the memo about Korea still stands out, particularly at a moment when relations between North and South Korea were beginning to thaw. What led to the internationalization of the search for a resolution to the division of the Korean Peninsula, to the point that Neruda would choose to write about it? Using a close reading of Neruda’s memo as a point of departure, this paper seeks to understand the motivations for engagement between Chile and Korea in the early 1970s, building on previous understandings of Chile’s parallel engagement with both North and South Korea to revisit a moment in time in which détente on the peninsula seemed possible. Drawing primarily from Korean and Spanish-language diplomatic sources and newspaper articles, this paper builds upon conversations that place Korean history in global contexts, while also emphasizing the critical nature of transpacific exchanges when framing the shifting nature of diplomacy during the era of decolonization.