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Help “identify problematic tropes and representations...”

Am I a problematic trope?

Jiwon & Matt, 2008

I have been reading Jenny Pak's book about Korean women and their roles in adjustment and acculturation when they emigrate to the US. The research Pak includes is how Korea's strict Confuncianism idealogy appears to infringe on the right of women to be equal to men and that coming to America challenges this patriarchal norm. I am reading this work alongside Grace Cho's Haunting the Korean Diaspora (recommended to me by Lisa Gross, founder of The League of Kitchens) and wondering about the omission of the "Western Princess" (a Korean woman who is willing to romanitically/sexually ally herself with the American soldiers occupied Korea during the Korean War) in Pak's historical context set-up. So the Korean woman would perhaps be paid or receive other benefits, which she then used to support her parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. So while she is helping her family, she is at the same time, in the same breath, being denigrated for this relationship.

Soldier posing with woman at a Korean brothel, 1952. Photo credit: Hanson A. Williams, Jr.

In the early 2000's when I lived in Korea, I watched this dynamic play out in Itaewon's Hooker Hill , a strip of bars and clubs where army guys would hook up with Korean women. I didn't know what I was looking at at the time, and two decades later, I am still working out the tangle of those images.

I just finished an article about Fernando Pessoa and his use of heteronyms in his writing. I was especially interested in how he would kill off characters and intro a new one throughout his career. One question is whether Pessoa lived a stunted life by dividing himself up in so many fractions: was Pessoa a "sad fraction" of a person? I only thought of this as it seems connected to how we ourselves fall into the trap of becoming problematic tropes and representations of ourselves. Sometimes by our own hand and of course, by others.

And a question that comes up for me: what fraction of the Western Princess is me?


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