While communist North Korea is widely regarded as one of the most highly militarized nations in the world today, the irony of deeply embedded militarism in democratic South Korea remains an understudied topic. This panel explores the governmental, institutional, and transnational forces that have had profound militarizing effects on South Korea’s modern structures and identity. Focusing on governance and industry in the country’s postwar political and socioeconomic transformation, the presenters examine how the national body politic, racial relations, the semiconductor industry, and scientific development have been mobilized through military mechanisms and for military purposes in South Korea, from the Korean War years to the present. The panel also opens new pathways for understanding the larger conjoined processes of Cold War militarization and modernization that operated on regional and global levels.
Sungik Yang examines the evolving nationalism of postwar South Korea as reflected in the militarized conduits of the Korean conservative movement; Sung Eun Kim explores the weaponization of racialized Korean soldiers in the Korean War; Patrick Chung dissects the United States’ militarization of the Pacific during the Cold War as a catalyst for the rise of the Korean semiconductor industry; and Peter Kwon reveals the technological transformation of civilian society under the Park Chung Hee regime’s militarization of science. Collectively, these studies provide new sources and perspectives on the contours of South Korea’s “militarized modernity,” which has been shaped by contentions and convergences between military and civilian agencies, authoritarianism and democracy, nationalism and imperialism, and militarism and capitalism.
Paper Presenter: Sungik Yang – Harvard University
Paper Presenter: Sung Eun Kim – University of California, Los Angeles
Paper Presenter: Patrick Chung – University of Maryland, College Park
Paper Presenter: Peter B. Kwon – University at Albany, SUNY