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Jodi Kim: “The Ending is Not and Ending At All” : On the Militarized and Gendered Diasporas of Kore

Through an analysis of two recent films, Deann Borshay Liem’s In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee (2010) and Jane Jin Kaisen’s The Woman, the Orphan, and the Tiger (2010), this essay argues that Korean transnational adoption is constituted by militarized and gendered diasporas that mark the ongoing presence of the US military in South Korea. The analysis highlights the ways in which Borshay Liem’s and Kaisen’s films make visible how such diasporas, linked to the larger diaspora produced by the Korean War, unsettle linear narratives of migration, arrival, and settlement. The failures and contradictions of the rescue narrative illuminate how the very problems that transnational adoption putatively resolves—those of displacements wrought by war, global inequality, uneven development, reproductive injustice, severed kinship, and gendered racial hierarchy—loop back in disturbing and unending proliferations. The militarized and gendered diasporas of Korean transnational adoption constitute a particular mode and temporality of migration whose specificities and complexities cannot be captured sufficiently via general tropes of immigration, refugee displacement, and adoption. The essay thus conceptualizes Korean transnational adoption as a militarized diaspora and gestures to the pervasive force of militarization as a logic that structures not only international geopolitical relations but also the intimate scales of adoptee kinships and subjectivity. Moreover, this militarized diaspora is also gendered, revealing a transnational and transgenerational economy of reproductive injustice for Korean women. The essay concludes with an analysis of how a regime of reproductive injustice is a significant and gendered biopolitical effect of the Korean War.

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