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Framed by WarKorean Children and Women at the Crossroads of US Empire$
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Susie Woo

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479889914

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479889914.001.0001

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Missionary Rescue and the Transnational Making of Family

Missionary Rescue and the Transnational Making of Family

(p.86) 3 Missionary Rescue and the Transnational Making of Family
Framed by War

Susie Woo

NYU Press

The war resulted in over three million Korean deaths and an estimated 100,000 children left homeless. The scale of need opened the door wide to nongovernmental US citizens who flooded South Korea to spearhead recovery efforts. American missionaries led the call. They set up over five hundred orphanages by the war’s end and administered care in a country that, unlike the United States, did not have an established national welfare program. The chapter examines how US officials initially welcomed the work of missionaries because they helped to resolve the civilian crisis while promoting Cold War visions of American benevolence, but were soon at odds with missionaries who openly criticized US servicemen for abandoning their mixed-race children in Korea. What began as a humanitarian and proselytizing effort in South Korea turned into an adoption movement that spanned the Pacific. Missionaries like evangelist Harry Holt and internationalist Pearl Buck connected constituencies back home to Korean children, imbuing Americans with a perceived First World responsibility over Third World children. The mobilization of Americans interested in seeing these adoptions through pressured the US and South Korean governments to create permanent adoption laws that set the stage for large-scale transnational adoptions the world over.

Keywords:   postwar Korea, US missionaries, orphanages, Cold War internationalism, mixed-race children, intercountry adoption, transnational adoption, adoption legislation, Harry Holt, Pearl Buck

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