Jeong Min Kim
New York University Shanghai
Jeong Min Kim is a Teaching Fellow in Global Perspectives on Society at New York University Shanghai. She studies and teaches modern Korea and East Asian history, gender and sexuality, and the transpacific history of US war and occupation. She received her Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from New York University, with her dissertation, Intimate Exchanges: Korean Women, American GIs, and the Making of Political Economy of South Korea during the Korean War, 1950-53. Beside writing her first book based on the dissertation, she recently began a new collaborative project critiquing the production of disciplinary knowledge, “Curatorial Responsibility in the Humanities” with a particular interest in a feminist reading of the military archives.
“From Military Supplies to Wartime Commodities: The Black Market for Bodies and Goods in Wartime Korea (1950-53)”
This study explores the transaction of bodies and army goods between Korean women and US GIs during the Korean War. US military supplies were commonly used as a form of payment for sexual transaction between GIs and women. And the women became the major providers for PX goods and army rations to the local black market, which served as de facto everyday economy in wartime Korea. In extant scholarship, the leakage of military items to civilian zones is often taken for granted as a natural result of the wartime scarcity. Counter to this conventional account, this paper traces how subsidized army supplies became wartime commodities. I conceptualize army supplies as a quasi currency whose exchange value was realized on the market through the mediation of women’s sexual and bodily labor. By illuminating the entwined process of commodification of bodies and goods, this paper shows what ostensibly unproductive and immaterial labor did for the workings of the wartime political economy and underscores an embedded concept of the economy in social life.