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The Intimacies of ConflictCultural Memory and the Korean War$
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Daniel Y. Kim

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479800797

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479800797.001.0001

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The Racial Borderlands of the Korean War

The Racial Borderlands of the Korean War

(p.203) 7 The Racial Borderlands of the Korean War
The Intimacies of Conflict

Daniel Y. Kim

NYU Press

This chapter brings together an array of Korean War novels, authored by US writers of color, to engage in a counterhegemonic project of cultural memory that explores the conflict’s significance for African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans: Toni Morrison’s Home, Rolando Hinojosa’s trilogy of works set during the conflict (Korean Love Songs, Rites and Witnesses, and The Useless Servants), and Ha Jin’s War Trash. These works critique the mistreatment of US soldiers of color and Chinese combatants by those in command. Morrison’s and Hinojosa’s novels emphasize the racism that persisted within the newly integrated US military, and Jin’s highlights the plight of prisoners of war in US-administered detention centers. These novels also highlight, however, nonwhite soldiers—including African American and Chicano servicemen—who committed atrocities during the conflict. Hinojosa’s and Jin’s writings, moreover, contextualize the war in a wider and longer set of historical trajectories: the former suggests a connection between US imperial aspirations as they took shape in 1950 and the ones that led to the US-Mexico War a century before; the latter conveys how the Korean War has been framed by the nationalist mythology of the People’s Republic of China as a great victory against US imperialism.

Keywords:   African American soldiers, atrocities, cultural memory, Ha Jin, Korean War, Mexican American/Chicano soldiers, military integration, prisoners of war, Rolando Hinojosa, Toni Morrison

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