Beyond the boundaries of nationalism, Christianity and feminism

South Korean women’s movement against U.S. military prostitution 1

Authored by: Na-Young Lee

Routledge Handbook of East Asian Gender Studies

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138959897
eBook ISBN: 9781315660523
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315660523-24

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Abstract

This paper analyses the Korean women’s movement against military prostitution in U.S. camptown (hereafter the kijich’on movement) during the democratic transition and consolidation in South Korea (the 1980s–1990s), examining its continuous negotiations between/amongst imperialism, nationalism, Christianity and gender politics. The 1980s in South Korea began with another military regime right after the explosive demise of the previous authoritarian regime. Korea’s democratisation movement was at its peak in the mid-1980s in confrontation with the military regime and eventually brought it down. Within the broader social movement frame of “minju” politics (i.e. people-centred democracy), women activists generally remained marginalised despite their active participation in it. In this atmosphere, some Christian women and student movement activists came together at this time to address the military prostitution issue (kijich’on issue) and gradually began to prioritise women’s issues in the contexts of anti-Americanism, realising military prostitutes’ rights as human rights. Exploring how the women’s organisations of the kijich’on movement, such as Durebang (My Sister’s Place) and Saeumto (Spouting Land), negotiated with the changing political environment, their religious beliefs and national sentiments, this paper discusses the tensions between nation and gender, as well as Korean nationalism and feminism. As responding to Korean androcentric politics, the movement direction and activism changed and developed “feminist consciousness” which rather led to the growth of anti-prostitution movement and the pursuit of transnational women’s coalition.

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