Found Image: Removing 'Ostricized' Korea Brown Babies 1953-1960s

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November 24, 2018

Critical Commentary

Substantive Caption: The image is a US State Department advertisement that was printed in Jet Magazine, a magazine with a predominantly African-American readership, on March 24, 1955. The advertisement titled, “State Department seeks to help ‘ostracized’ Korea brown babies,” describes the racial discrimation that mixed-race children (whose fathers were American GI soldiers in South Korea) face in South Korean orphanages. According to the ad, mixed-race children were at risk of starvation since, according to the ad, Korean caretakers prefer to feed non-mixed Korean children first. The ad attempts to recruit African-American families to adopt these children, promising government support to adoptive families.

Design Statement: I am interested in understanding the use of adoption by the South Korean state to control "toxic citizenry," or those members of the nation that threaten the state's biopolitical agenda in nation-building projects. After the Korean War, both the South Korean government and the U.S. government, under the banner of "benevolence," sought to remove mixed-race children, sure that they would face racial discrimination in a "racially homogeneous" society such as South Korea. Of course, the adoption of mixed-race South Korean babies to the United States failed to recognize the racism that they would later experience in the US, as well as provided a blueprint for a relationship between a feminized South Korea and paternalistic United States (McKee). It also set a precedent for the South Korean state to eliminate social issues such as racial discrimination through attempts to remove racial difference, rather than through attempts to expand notions of Koreanness. This pattern would later be repeated through the removal of children from poor families and children from single parent households. 

 

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