A Force for Development: The Scalar Politics of Militarized Urbanism in Pyeongtaek

Bridget Martin, PhD Candidate
University of California, Berkeley

A US military installation currently undergoing expansion in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, will in the next two to three years become the largest overseas US military base in the world and will host the vast majority of US troops in Korea. Focusing on the city of Pyeongtaek, this paper analyzes how local and central governments in South Korea have enrolled the US military in state-driven urbanization projects through an emergent militarized version of the country’s dominant “international city” urban paradigm. Because of the inter-scalar politics and locally driven urban growth regimes that have evolved since the mid-1990s, the local government in Pyeongtaek has “turned crisis into opportunity,” re-casting US military presence in the city from a force for national security to a force for internationalized urban development. Since 2004, the local and central governments have used promises of urban growth to persuade a skeptical Pyeongtaek population that US base expansion in Pyeongtaek would benefit citizens. While the withdrawal of the US military from downtown Seoul and the opening up of the Yongsan Garrison space is used by Seoul City to push forward new “green” urban schemes in the capital’s center, in Pyeongtaek, which is a rural and peripheral city, all levels of government cast military expansion as a force for local economic development and internationalized urbanization

Developing Gangnam – Water, State, and Society in Modern Korea

Sang-ho Ro, Assistant Professor
Ewha Womans University

In this paper, I will examine how modern state and society in Korea closely cooperated with empires in order to dominate Mother Nature. Especially, my interest is the historical formation of Gangnam, the urban center of Seoul, which at present symbolizes luxurious lifestyle and space of modern Korean middle-class consumers. The Gangnam did not exist as residential and commercial areas until multiple agents chose to work together for taming the Han River. The modern alliance for human dominance over nature crossed ethnic and national boundaries of Koreans and non-Koreans in the twentieth century. Foreign powers – the Japanese Empire before WWII and the U.S. after WWII – initiated water control in Han River for their own purposes in the peninsula. Also, the Pak Chŏng-hŭi administration and the following Chŏn Tu-hwan administration not only used the colonial legacy of autocratic developing state, but also actively collaborated with the USAID for controlling Han River and making Gangnam. The 1988 Seoul Olympics completed the birth of Gangnam as if South Korea as a modern nation finally could conquer the Han River. Although their mission of domination was less than perfect, I would like to argue in this paper that the history of developing Gangnam will give us a deeper insight into the rise of modernizing regime in Korea which can be better understood by transnational perspectives.

Sexual Economy of the Global Black Market: MPC and the R&R Economy during the Korean War (1950-53)

Jeongmin Kim, Ph.D. Candidate
New York University

This paper examines South Korea’s wartime black market that was formed, and worked, in connection with Japan during the Korean War. In particular, I trace two movements that took place across Japan and Korea, both of which involved sexual exchange between American GIs and local women: the circulation of U.S. dollar and MPC (Military Payment Certificate), and American GIs’ R&R (Rest and Recreation) leaves to Japan. Launched in December 1950, the R&R program sent over 800,000 UN servicemen from Korea to Japan for their five-day leave from Korea, and this program led to the further growth of the base economy and military prostitution in Japan. While its use was supposedly restricted within U.S. overseas bases, the MPC was used widely and contributed to the formation of a transnational black market that went hand in hand with the formation of the R&R economy. This paper illuminates how the R&R economy and the MPC market spanning Japan and Korea facilitated each other’s growth with the sexualized unequal exchange between GIs and women as a key mediation. While they were never documented in the official international balance sheet, the black market transactions among non-state actors served as a core element in the wartime everyday economy of South Korea, and became an integral part of the regional political economy during the war. Hence we see how the U.S. military expansion in East Asia was built on and sustained by the gendered utilization of the geographical and human resources in the region.

C.A.R.E.: Building an Empire through Humanitarian Food Aid, 1957-1966

Dajeong Chung, Visiting Assistant Professor
The College of William and Mary

This paper begins by arguing that US humanitarian food assistance to South Korea was born out of the failure of earlier US Cold War policy. Previously, the United States had supplied relief food directly to the South Korean government. Although it helped avoid famine, it failed to achieve a longer and more pervasive goal of the United States, which was to persuade the South Koreans to the advantages of joining the “free world” in contrast to a communist rule. The result was dismal. New food from the United States, rather than representing the generous gift of the US government, was more associated with the South Korean governmental corruption and US complicity in it. Partly as a corrective to this, the United States introduced a new Voluntary Agency Program under Title III, Public Law 480, which was to provide food aid through international organizations and civilian voluntary agencies, and claimed a higher moral ground in comparison to communist states.

CARE (Cooperation for American Relief Everywhere) inherited the Milk Feeding Program from UNICEF in 1957, and modified it to a School Lunch Program that continued to 1966. South Korean schools, local communities and newspapers responded positively to the UNICEF-CARE programs which engaged the recipients with practices of child care, public hygiene, and nutritional science. However, the fact that the US Department of State donated most of the food for the programs under Title III, US Public Law 480 was not actively promoted. Instead, South Korean newspapers credited UNICEF and CARE as original donors. This paper identifies the mediation through voluntary agencies as a key mechanism of humanitarian food aid. By de-emphasizing the intent of the US government, the voluntary agency programs enabled a humanitarian image of US food aid as coming from multiple, de-centralized, civilian agencies operating through voluntary individual donations from US citizens. Thus established humanitarian image successfully construed a difference from the communists, and it was fed into the metaphors of the American Cold War.