Seungsook Moon, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology at Vassar College, will present a lecture on April 15 at 3 p.m. titled “Living with the US Military Empire in South Korea: Camptown Women and KATUSAs,” in Franklin Center Room 240, 2204 Erwin Road, Duke University (sponsored by the Korean Studies Program at Duke University).
During the post-World War Two era, the U.S. has built and managed its unprecedented global network of military bases and over 2/3 of these bases have been concentrated in South Korea, Japan/Okinawa, and Germany. Based on a volume, Over There: Living with the US Military Empire from World War Two to the Present (Duke University Press, 2010), which I co-edited and contributed 5 chapters to, this lecture will discuss experiences of women and men who have lived in and around US military bases in South Korea during the past six decades. In particular, it will focus on “camptown women” who have worked in camptown entertainment clubs catering to American GIs and KATUSAs (the Korean Augmentation Troops to the United States Army), which refer to Korean (male) conscripts who have served in the US Army in American uniform during their military service. The camptown women were initially Korean women from impoverished families but, since the late 1980s, they have been replaced by migrant transnational workers largely from the Philippines and former Soviet Republics. While the relationship between KATUSAs and GIs was deeply hierarchical, stemming from their power differences based on race/ethnicity and class, such hierarchy has been mitigated and modified over time as a result of socioeconomic and political changes in South Korea. Gendered experiences of these social groups of living with the US military empire in such hybrid space as camptowns and US military bases illuminate complexities in the working of the global and transnational military empire as well as the underlying imperial structure that shapes encounters between GIs and local or transnational women and men.