According to Grace Cho, the Korean War brought a huge number of American soldiers into the South Korea, to a tune of 350,000 troops. Among them, approximately 70,000 soldiers were left behind even after the ROK-US treaty in 1953, which saw the US troops withdrawing from Korea. While the presence of the foreign military personnel influenced the life of people of Korea, their greatest effect was on Korean women. Women were employees at the base, while other worked around the stations. Their duties in the base entailed; interpretation, clerical, hospitality and catering. For those who were working outside the camps, their trade was in bars and clubs. For both categories, American military personnel presented the supremacy of material abundance. These women considered marriage to the military men as a mean of avoidance of patriarchy of their native society. The enactment of the War Bride Act in 1945 allowed Korean wives of American soldiers to migrate to the US. To the effect of this Act, about 6,000 Korean women moved to the US as Servicemen wives. This number is approximately 40% of the total Korean immigrant to the US between 1950 and 1964. Thereafter, Korean women continuously streamed to the US to a tune of 40,000 women per decade (Cho, 2008).
On arrival to the US, the Korean wives to Americans developed their own societies. To the eyes of their fellow Koreans, these women were viewed as prostitutes. Due to this stigma, they became easy target of isolation in American Korean communities. At the same time, they failed to integrate into the US mainstream culture owing to cultural isolation and racism. The expectation from their American husbands was that they could preserve oriental characteristics associated with Korean women. Most of them tried to bring up their children in a bilingual and bicultural manner, but this was met with resistant from their American husbands who advocated for unilingual and monoculture way of American. Nevertheless, within their acquired society they could share about their hardships.
During this immigration wave, the American soldiers adopted some Korean children, who were orphaned by the War. Most of these children were brought up amongst American and away from other Korean Americans. This environment isolated them from their native culture. As a result, most Korean American children and adoptees grew up in isolation to their culture and heritage.
In her attempt to unearth the background of the Korean War and the immigration that resulted, applying the views of Korean wives to the US service men, Grace Cho also establishes the system for a hermeneutic, which depends on the analogies that are suggested by the usage of the terms “ghosts” and “haunting.” In her explanation, Cho explores all the implications and consequences of the concepts innate in the analogies with regards to their effect on the future Koreans’ generations and as illustrations of the psychic security damage from the War. Her writing style and the choice of words, unconsciously exposes the core of shame and secrecy. Repeatedly, Cho harkens back to the literal application and meaning implied in the illustrations of ghost as unearthly incorporate body and the analogy of haunting as supernatural being that cannot be eradicated easily. In her effort to highlight the darkened past, Cho express her feelings from a personal encounters with ghost of War. She disentangle herself from the ghosts that have lingered in her past life and shed light in the ghost of dark past, which government would prefer to ignore, forget and summarily desist and dismiss.
Cho equates the “silence” in her family to emptiness that needs “fleshing out.” The same aspect of silence characterizes her mother’s answer to the subject about the Wartimes. The reality and facts are not listened to, neither are they given voice. Truth and realities are hidden and assumed that they never existed, an aspect that helps to embody the concept of silences and give nourishment to the “ghost” of their absence. This absence of truth subsumes the ghost of the prostitutes who were paid by the American service men while labeling them as the war brides. Cho further discusses the erroneous belief that is held by Korean women. These women believed that by holding back their voices on the issues of the degrading and horrific experiences, ghost of past and their shameful secret would be forgotten once they die, sheltering the next generation from the ghost of stigma. Cho applies her work as a way of achieving a haunting of her construction through sociological imagination, destruction of tranquil perspective of the war as advantageous and justified.
Most Korean American children grew up in confusion about their cultural identity. They suffered perplexedly from the experience of being brought up in American neighborhood without being part of it fully. While Korean immigrants were placed within American culture, they were considered foreign and unintelligible to the American policy. In Cho’s perspective, Korean immigrants were marked as culturally and ethnically inassimilable; though they were required, they were never welcomed.
In terms of popular culture and politics, Korean Americans were disregarded as second-rate race. Korean Americans suffered from the yellow peril label. The white farmers and American workers violently threatened to attack and kill the Korean American laborers. In spite of their lengthy stay in America, Korean Americans were ostracized as foreigners. These stereotype illustrations of Koreans allowed for the enactment of bylaw barring Koreans from enjoying the privileges that were at the disposal of Whites. This discrimination against has had negative impact on Korean Americans and their children in the way they interacted with others. Korean Americans are often complimented whenever they fluently speak English without accent. However, it is such compliment, which disorient them from being American, to be regarded an American there is more than speaking English fluently and without accent. From the author’s perspective, Korean Americans with narrow-shaped eyes and yellow colored skin are not regarded as entirely American. Korean Americans may be speaking English fluently, marry an American service man, and learn the mainstream American cultural values, but with their ethnic and physical features, they remain foreigners.
In some cases, Korean Americans have suffered from hate crimes based on their racial stereotypes that are associated directly with their physical traits. Due to this stereotype, most Korean American children suffered identity crisis. This negative perspective of American towards the Korean American has resulted into some children becoming ashamed of their identity to an extent of under going plastic surgery and coloring their hairs to attain desirable characteristics, but with great disappointment. For the Korean American children, living in immigrant family circles, it becomes very hard to communicate their frustration with their parents. These children and their parents believed that it was due to the communication barriers and educational differences that they could not obtain better jobs.
Korean American parents, who failed to achieve their goals in live, tend to push their children to study even harder to become acceptable in their espoused society. Nevertheless, the Korean American children complain about the pressure exerted by their parents. The situation is even made worse for the children by their parents, where from one end the parents are pushing the children to stand out in American society; while on the other hand, they are pushing them to retain Korean culture. It is quite unfortunate that the education system does not accommodate bilingual, hence bicultural. With this form of communication barriers, it has been a difficult process of creating either American culture or Korean culture. The only possible culture is an intermediate, with neither Americans nor Korean parents being in a position to have a full influence.
After the 17th century, Korea became intolerant to foreign influences considering the previous incursion by the Japanese in 1552 and by Manchu in 1627. These experiences made Korea avoid all the foreign interaction apart from China for more than two centuries during what was referred to as Hermit Kingdom. It was until the end of the 19th century that there was an economic crisis in Asia. During this period of socioeconomic crisis, that King Kojong of Korea was convinced by Horace N. Allen, a missionary to allow Korean to migrate to Hawaii. This conviction was timely, since there was drought that had already devastated the Koreans agricultural sector. The Koreans who had suffered a great loss from the drought were easily lured to move to Hawaii where there were sugar plantations, which offered them employment.
Further conviction came from media advertisements, which were boasting about Hawaiians’ life. Given that most Korean was poverty-stricken and the political instability that Korea was going through, Koreans were cajoled to move to Hawaii. The recruitment process was intensive, capturing people from different backgrounds, including farmers, soldiers, artisans, and laborers. At the same time, the Japanese workers in the Hawaiians sugar plantations were engaging in industrial actions, protesting against working conditions and low wages. To counterbalance the protesting Japanese workers, Koreans immigrants were preferred for they were considered more respectful and obedient to their bosses than the Japanese were. A great number of immigrants followed the arrival of SS Gaelic with about 102 Korean professional immigrants from Korea. Majority of these immigrants were city dwellers back in Korea prior to migration to Hawaii. Since most of the recruiters were missionaries, most of the immigrants were Christians. There were a great number of males, as compared to the females.
Nevertheless, the immigration window was shut in 1905 through a treaty between the Japanese and Korean government. This treaty saw the termination of the issuance of visas to Koreans who wanted to migrate to Hawaii. The reason behind this scheme by the Japanese government was to protect the Japanese who were working in Hawaii from losing jobs to Koreans. The other reason was to stop the Korean national Independence movement that was already gaining momentum in the US.
In the film Arirang, the concept of melodrama and genre are applied by the director, these coupled with the ability of the cinematographers and a director to produce striking images adds to the strength of the film. The only weakness is the glossy sheen in the film that makes it more visual, diverting attention from the audio part of the film; this makes it look more like a commercial film.
The first wave of immigrants from Korea happened at the beginning of the 19th century. This wave comprised of laborers who were lured by missionaries from Hawaii to move to Hawaiian sugar plantations. Like any other Asian society in America, Korean Americans were actively involved in making of American nation. Though, Koreans stayed away from international interaction for more than two and half centuries, they were forced to sign a disadvantageous Kanghwa treaty of Japan in 1876. Under the treaty, Japanese took the Korean’s international trade rights. This treaty later paved way for Japanese declaration of Korea as its protectorate. Early 1900s, there was a socioeconomic crisis in Korea resulting from government instability and drought. It is during this period that Horace Allen, a medical missionary from the United States, persuaded King Kojong, (who was in charge of Korea) to allow the emigration of Korean citizens to Hawaii. This marked the first immigration of Koreans to Hawaii as laborers in sugar plantations. The immigrants moved to Hawaii in search of labor. Young Korean males as the majorities characterized this exodus, with few women and children.
To the contrary, women and children moving to America characterized the post-65 Korean immigration. The immigrants were allowed to America as wives to American service men and American adopted disadvantaged children from Korea (Thomas, 2009).
Los Angeles Koreatown obtained the name from high population of Korean immigrants and businesses operated by Koreans in Wilshire district in 1980. Before 1950s, the Wilshire district served as a residential and commercial area for White Americans. The newly arrived immigrants from Korea opened businesses. For the last four decades, Koreatown has transformed greatly. Olympic Boulevard in 1971 became the centre of Korean commercial activities. After 1965, Koreatown transformed to a major destination point for Korean immigrants. The town developed to offer cultural comforts through social services and media agencies to immigrants who had tough time due to language barriers. Later on, in 1982 California transportation department officially fixed a “Korea town” signboard on the Freeway between the Western entrances and Normandie.
Although many Koreans moved out, the town still developed into a hub of business activities with most investors originating from Korea. Recently, wealthier immigrants from Korea who had previously left the Koreatown are flowing back to the town inducing construction of apartments and high-end condominiums. These new immigrants comprise of the young couples, college graduates, and children of the former immigrants who left the town previously. This new arrival of spenders has caused the life expense in Koreatown to increase and low earners are being evicted from their residents. With the increasing transnational commercial and trade centers, Koreatown is expected to develop further.