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Representations of adopted Koreans in Korean popular culture
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Oriental Languages, Division of Korean Studies.
2005 (English)In: 1st Adoption and Culture Conference of the Alliance for the Study of Adoption, Identity and Kinship, 2005Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

International adoption from Korea constitutes the background to this paper. This forced migration of Korean children has by now continued for over half a century, resulting in a diaspora of more than 150,000 adopted Koreans dispersed among 15 host countries on the continents of Europe, North America and Oceania. Both the demographic scope, the time span and the geographic spread are unique in the history of child migration, and still over 2,000 children leave Korea annually. This paper deals with the Korean adoption issue and representations of adopted Koreans in Korean popular culture. With the background of Korean nationalism with its notion of the nation as family and its strong emphasis on homogeneity, the point of departure is the very existence of the adopted Koreans as a delicate threat to nationalist ideology, causing anxieties of disrupting a supposedly fixed national identity, and calling in question what it means to be Korean. After a background to international adoption from Korea and a theoretical framing of the Korean adoption issue, the paper analyses the representations of adopted Koreans in four feature films and popular songs respectively; Chang Kil-su’s Susanne Brink’s Arirang (1991), Pak Kwang-su’s Berlin Report (1991), Kim Ki-duk’s Wild Animals (1997), and Lee Jang-soo Love (1999), and Sinawe’s Motherland (1997), Clon’s Abandoned Child (1999), Sky’s Eternity (1999), and Moon Hee Jun’s Alone (2001). In the popular cultural representations, the adopted Koreans are subjected to an ambiguous position as both tragic and shameful symbols of the nation’s historical suffering and as essentialised overseas compatriots in the construction of a global Korean community.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
international adoption, popular culture, Korea
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-22110OAI: diva2:188637
Available from: 2006-04-09 Created: 2006-04-09Bibliographically approved

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