Living the 'American Dream': Korean War Brides in Suburban New York

Document Type



Under the supervision of Professor Joseph Lee (History, PNY), my research consisted of extensive interviews with several Korean military brides in a small Korean-American community in the premominantly white middle-class Newburgh, New York. From these interviews, conducted in the Korean language, I used five case studes to illustrate the experiences of these military brides, focusing on their association with the American military bases and prostitution in South Korea to their struggles and cultural adjustmenht in interracial marriages in the United States.

The main argument is that these Korean military brides came from diverse social backgrounds and chose to associate with the U.S. military camptowns and marry American servicemen for very complex reasons. What these women have in common is that they had employed marriage as a survival strategy in poverty-stricken Korea. Upon their arrival in the United States, these women sought to assimilate into mainstream society and fulfill the expected roles as housewives and mothers within an American middle-class family. Place in the wider contexts of Korean-U.S. relations, their stories provide us with a unique lens through which to explore the complexities of social, cultural and economic interactions between Korea and the United states in the late twentieth century.

Information about the Student Author

Class of 2004, Major: History

Summary of Research Experience

Thanks to the Eugene M. Lang Student-FAculty Research Fellowship, I have been able to conduct oral histroy research and work closely with a specialist. I have not only gained a better understanding of the experiences of Korean military brides in American society but have also sharpened my research, communication, and analytical skills. This faculty-student research experience has made me a more critical person and enhanced my academic interest in gender politics and the complexity of Korean-US relations.

Dissemination of Results

Dr. Joseph Lee and I co-authored a paper entitled "The Korean Military Brides in New York," which was presented at the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Association for Asian Studies' Annual Conference in George Washington University, Washington, D.C., October 25,2003.

We presented our paper, "Of Love and War: Korean War Brides in New York," at the East Asian Seminar, Pace University in New York, October 14, 2003. I also co-presented with Professor Lee, "The Korean Military Brides in Suburban New York" at the Faculty Development Program for "Partnerships for Collaborative Learning" Workshop at Pace University in White Plains, October 17,2003.

I spoke on "Living the 'American Dream':The Korean Military Brides in Suburban New York" at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Society of Fellows, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Pace University in White Plains, February 22,2004.

Finally I gave a presentation on "The Eugene M. Lang Faculty-Student Research Experience in my Senior Year" at the Annual Scholarship Program Dinner, Pace University, March 5 2004.

Professor Lee and I have co-authored "The Korean Military Brides in Suburban New York." Professor Lee is revising this paper for publication in an international journal. Dr. Sem Vermeersch, Associate Editor of ACTA Koreana, has expressed interest in reviewing this article for publication.

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Joseph T. Lee, Assistant Professor of History

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