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Cho traces the experiences and troubles of the yanggongju across the history of Korea. She does this to document the stories of women who were forced into slavery as comfort women during the war and who by economic necessity ended up turning to the Americans. She calls this emotional suicide the "fabric of erasure" and goes through this process to exorcise the ghost from the Korean national consciousness and the consciousness of women (ibid 1). There is a lot of psychological trauma suffered by the comfort women and Cho adapts to explore these issues across generations of the Korean consciousness. This concept was adapted from studies of the holocaust and fights the emotional erasure. This concept was established by Maria Torok and Nicholas Abraham, scholars of the Holocaust. Cho incorporated these in her project. She said that even "Korean wives who led lives of isolation and were the subject of neighborhood gossip (ibid 3). Like the children of the Jewish Holocaust survivors, Koreans living in America who were not alive during the Korean War are still being haunted by the secretive and furtive nature of that conflict. This is particularly in the case of the Nosferatu nature yanggongju, feeding as it is on the living (ibid 30).
The Haunting of the Korean Diaspora seeks to uncover some of the ways the yanggonju floats around in both Korea and America settings. In chapter one, it is suggested by Cho that the yanggonju is a source of discomfort for Koreans that contributes to the communities marginalization (ibid 34-5). In chapter two, she documents the numerous horrors of the Korean War and shows that these conditions led women to become prostitutes around U.S. military installations after the Korean War. Violence and sex come together therefore in a symbiotic relationship that feeds the psychosis of the survivors. She sees the war as a type of continued domination even though the violence is done and over. It continues on even after the war is over and done because the memories are buried in the subconscious memory of the women and can only be gotten rid of by telling the story.
Further on in the book, Cho moves from the camptowns to analyzing the Korean brides of American soldiers who emigrated to America. Cho states calls the camptowns a "bride school" that teaches the women to be sexual slaves and playthings for the Americans and their war machine (ibid 140). Again, like the Korean War, the continued occupation of the country by the American troops provides the women with continued discomfort and pain. Like the war itself that ended only in a ceasefire, the women experience only a partial disconnection with the past. For them to completely disconnect themselves from it, they need to tell the stories over in a more liberating context, one which empowers them to have control over the situation and to effect closure.
Certainly, psychological therapists will confirm that creating a new identity means that we much deal with our buried pasts. In many types of therapy, past horrors are examined in order to break the bonds with the past and to learn new and more positive behaviors. These buried and uncorrected pasts need to be dealt with both on an individual and on a community basis. In both books, the authors illustrate the pitfalls of not doing this and examples of individuals and communities that are better and happier for doing it. These communities then can heal and grow from the experience, remaking and empowering themselves along the way as they take control and ownership from their oppressors in a cathartic process that ends only when the bonds and chains are broken. These chains and bonds took many years to establish and also require many years and retellings to completely exorcise the ghosts from the collective of the women victims.
Cho, Grace M. Haunting the Korean diaspora: shame, secrecy, and the forgotten war. Minneapolis,
MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York, NY: Plume, 1998.…[continue]
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