Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
War and Society
From 1910 to 1945, while the Korean peninsula was a protectorate- and eventual colony- of the Empire of Japan, Koreans in the United States began an arduous process to maintain their sense of identity in a new land, and struggled to have a voice in a society that rejected their race. As a people in diasporic exile, Korean Americans engaged in a collective war for their independence by gathering resources to liberate Korea and committing extraordinary effort to deconstruct contrived stereotypes of Koreans. There are a number of forms of primary sources that corroborate the major arguments of the thesis, including early Korean American- and American- newspaper reporting, first-hand testimonials, propaganda editorials, military and government documents, statements, and letters.
This thesis was written in the early months of 2020, a time when Asian culture and acknowledgement of Asian American contributions was at its height, only to have it come crashing down to one of its lowest points. At the start of February, the South Korean thriller Parasite became the first foreign film to receive the Academy Award for “Best Picture”, and, just over a week later, California had issued its first official apology for its role in the internment of the Japanese. Then, almost as quickly as the successes came, an explosion of anti-Asian sentiment swept the globe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Known as the “Yellow Peril”, the latent feelings of anger and discrimination erased any sense of ambiguous racism, effectively overturning decades of meticulously crafted progress by countless people. But this struggle is merely another battle in an endless war, as Korean Americans cope with the generalized and misdirected racism that the older generations had faced. However, as racism engenders hardships and a new need to validate themselves and their fidelity to American values, Korean Americans will demonstrate once again perseverance and sacrifice to bring a better future, just as they did during their war for independence.
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Chae, Andrew. "Between the Devil and the Deep Sea: The Korean American War for Independence (1910-1945)." Master's thesis, Chapman University, 2020. https://doi.org/10.36837/chapman.000154