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The nation is a woman: The Korean nation embodied as an overseas adopted woman in Chang Kil-su's Susanne Brink's Arirang
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Oriental Languages, Division of Korean Studies.
2005 (English)In: Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, ISSN 1440-9151, Vol. 11Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Nationalism is a heavily gendered discourse, as the nation is often embodied as a woman. The gendered manner of nationalism and woman as a privileged sign of the nation is the perspective when reading the Korean feature film Susanne Brink’s Arirang. Released in September 1991, directed by respected Chang Kil-su and based on an authentic story, the film depicts the life of Susanne Brink, an adopted Korean woman of Sweden. The narrative trajectory of the film starts with her departure from Korea at the age of three, continues through her hardships as an adoptee in Sweden with an abusive adoptive family, two suicide attempts and endless misery as a single mother to a mixed child, and ends with the reunion with her Korean family some 20 years later. In Susanne Brink’s Arirang, Korea is embodied as a female adopted child, and in accordance with the reproductive associations of gendered nationalism, the aspect of representing the nation becomes even more apparent by the fact that children are commonly seen as the destiny of the nation. If women are the origin of the nation, children are the nation’s future. As international adoption intrudes upon and disrupts both the nation and the family, adopted children naturally become a matter of strong nationalist concern. The message conveyed in this issue-oriented film is that international adoption is a degrading trade in the country’s own children humiliating the nation, and that the adopted Koreans are leading miserable existences and need to be protected and rescued by male power. Korea performs as a passive and victimised female adopted Korean who simultaneously suffers from colonial oppression and puts the nation to shame in her disgraceful transgressions of Korean womanhood, and her shameless state as a single mother to a mixed child. It is only through the recovering of Susanne, accomplished by the intervention of Korean male power, that the nation is able to take back its honour.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 11
Keyword [en]
international adoption, popular culture, Korea
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-20339OAI: diva2:186865
Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2011-01-12Bibliographically approved

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