The Construction of U.S. Camptown Prostitution in South Korea: Trans/Formation and Resistance

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This dissertation examines the historical construction and transformation of U.S. camptown prostitution (kijich'on prostitution) in South Korea. Wrought by Japanese colonialism, U.S. military occupation, national division, and the Korean War, camptown prostitution has been historically constructed and reconstructed within a complex web of dynamic power relations between/among nation-states, subjects, and NGOs. This is a study of U.S. camptown prostitution, however, which is not just about military prostitution. Rather, it is a study of the power dynamics inherent in the material basis and the discursive formations that make the phenomenon, kijich'on prostitution, substantial. As such, this study analyzes the multiple intersections of structures of power that constitute the kijich'on.

The purpose of this study is 1) to provide a geneology to explain the socio-historical phases of camptown prostitution, 2) to gauge the impacts of inter-state relations, U.S. military policy, and (inter)national policies on the kijich'on and kijich'on prostitution, 3) to trace the roles and activities of Korean NGOs and women's organizations with regard to kijich'on prostitution, and finally 4) to understand the triangular relationship among the nation-states, women subjects, and movement organizations in (re)constructing kijich'on prostitution as both material reality and symbolic metaphor. Thus, the research questions at the center of this dissertation are directed towards four themes: historicizing kijich'on prostitution, understanding the role of the nation-states and NGOs in the process of construction and transformation of the kijich'on, deconstructing the policies that have impacted kijich'on prostitution and the women's movement against kijich'on prostitution. In order to answer these questions, this study employs multiple methods of gathering information and analysis, including archival research, participant observation, in-depth interviews, and textual analysis.

Utilizing gender as a crucial analytical category, this dissertation contributes not only to an understanding of camptown prostitution, but also to the theoretical conceptualization of military prostitution, feminist radical theories of gender, race, and nation, and the trans/national feminist movements.