Pure mixed blood: The multiple identities of Amerasians in South Korea

Pure mixed blood: The multiple identities of Amerasians in South Korea

Indiana University
February 2007
256 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3253643

Sue-Je Lee Gage, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Ithaca University

Submitted to the faculty of the University Graduate School in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of  Anthropology, Indiana University

Political and social currents play a role in how identities are ascribed and claimed by Amerasians in South Korea. Amerasians continue to be racialized as “other” within a set of desirable and undesirable qualities. Attitudes are complicated by the effects of globalization, especially the temporary immigration of US military personnel and guest workers, as well as current fashion and aesthetic trends. Within the context of a diversifying Korea, the very nature of “Amerasian” (American and Asian) and “Kosian” (Korean and South Asian) call into question notions of purity and race within the assumed ethnonation of Korea. How “pure” is pure when it comes to people and identity? In what ways do perceived appearances affect experiences?

Many Amerasians subscribe to a presumed racial hierarchy incorporated and contextualized in the countries of their births from a western perspective on “race” in their own identity ascription and claiming. However, this hierarchy is neither simple nor fixed. It is complicated by perceptions and notions of “race” and what it means to be “human.” Class, gender, generation, English-speaking ability, appearance/beauty, parentage, education, and social support networks and organization affiliations also influence attitudes and perceptions. My research examines the local, global, and historical reasons that contribute to the ways Amerasians are perceived, as well as the ways they perceive themselves, including the on-going racial/ethnic/political dialogue within Korea and between Korea, the United States, and the international community.


  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • List of illustrations and appendixes
  • Note to Reader
  • CHAPTER 1. Introduction
    • Methodology
    • Theory
    • Overview of the Book
  • Part I: The Thick and Thin of Blood
    • CHAPTER 2. Minjok and the History of Korean Nationalism
      • Pre-Modern Context and Early Korean Interactions with the West
      • Nationalist Movements and the Articulation of Identities
      • US-ROK Relation
      • The More Recent Period
      • Conclusion
    • CHAPTER 3. Racing Self and Otherness in South Korea
      • Racing the Korean Self
      • Representations
      • Racing the Other in Korea
      • Globalization
      • Conclusion
    • CHAPTER 4. The “Amerasian Problem”: Blood, Duty, and Race
      • Representations of Amerasian Identity in the United States
      • Transnational Advocacy Networks Prior to the 1980s
      • Amerasian Policy Formation
      • Conclusion
  • Part II: The Purity of Mixed Blood
    • CHAPTER 5. Living “Amerasian”
      • The Legacy of a Name: Looking “American,” Feeling “Korean”
      • American Names & Korean Names
      • Marriage & Breeding Out Amerasian Blood
      • Amerasian Entertainers & Celebrities
      • “Our Country” & Patriotism
      • Redefining and Claiming Amerasian Identity
      • Conclusion
    • CHAPTER 6. “We Want What Everybody Else Wants, to Live”
      • Human Rights, International Community & Globalization
      • From “other” to “Other
      • Immigrating to the US – Why and Why not?
      • Conclusion
  • Part III: Globalizing Blood – Intersections and Conclusion
    • CHAPTER 7. Conclusion: Pure Mixed Blood
    • CHAPTER 8. Afterward: Feeling the Want of Something More – ashwiwĹŹ hada
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix A Glossary
  • Appendix B Illustrations
  • Bibliography
  • Curriculum Vitae


  • Figure 1.1 US Military Map of Korea. Highlights the major US military installations – Camp Casey in Tongduch’on, Osan Airbase near Pyongt’aek.
  • Figure 1.2 Kyonggi Province (Gyeonggi-do) – Includes Tongduch’on to the north of Seoul, Seoul, and Pyongt’aek to the south of Seoul.
  • Figure 1.3 Shalom House Building
  • Figure 3.1 Korea Special Tourism sign – “This Facility is for Foreigners, Tourists, and US Soldiers Stationed in Korea Only.”
  • Figure 3.2 Club Proof of Inspection by the Second Infantry, US Army in Tongduch’on – “Cheer” is handwritten on the label on the right corner.
  • Figure 3.3 Korea Special Tourism Association Club. Exchange Bank located on the Right Side of the Club.
  • Figure 3.4 Tongduch’on’s Kijich’on
  • Figure 3.5 Molly Holt
  • Figure 3.6 Director Woo, Sun-duk and Two Women Working in the Clubs
  • Figure 3.7 Advertisement for Whitening Lotion for Men
  • Figure 4.1 St. Vincent’s Home Sign
  • Figure 5.1 I am Korean
  • Figure 5.2 I am Korean
  • Figure 5.3 We are Korean
  • Figure 5.4 We are Korean
  • Figure 5.5 I am Korean
  • Figure 5.6 We are Korean
  • Figure 5.7 I am Korean
  • Figure 5.8 We are Korean
  • Figure 5.9 We are Korean
  • Figure 5.10 Pearl S. Buck Summer Camp 2002, Picture Taken at the Blue House
  • Figure 5.11 Mrs. Chung Rodrigues
  • Figure 5.12 Mrs. and Mr. Kang
  • Figure 6.1 ACA Students
  • Figure 6.2 Sports Day
  • Figure 6.3 Durihana ACA Logo
  • Figure 6.4 Marriage and Visa Center in Itaewon
  • Figure 7.1 The Right to Experience Life
  • Figure 8.1 Dance Therapy at Sunlit Sisters’ Center
  • Figure 8.2 Family and Me in Tongduch’on
  • Figure 8.3 Family in Tongduch’on
  • Figure 8.4 Family in Anjong-ri
  • Figure 8.5 Family and Me in Anjong-ri
  • Figure 9.1 Baby Buddhas


  • Appendix A Glossary
  • Appendix B Illustrations
  • Appendix C Map of Tongduch’on with Legend of Clubs and Shops

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