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Parasite Capitalism: How “Mrs. UNs” Turned Military Supplies into Wartime Commodities

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Event Details:

In the early 1950s Japan and Korea, black markets for US troops stationed in the two countries were characterized by transactions over women’s bodies and sexuality. This sex-facilitated black market, resulting from the cross-border movements of the troops between Korea and Japan during the Korean War, enabled trade in military supplies, aid, and foreign currencies, and served as the basis of local economies during the war. This talk discusses how local women in the sexual market, often called “Mrs. UNs,” provided the intimate labor that mediated the transformation of military supplies into wartime commodities. The entwined process of commodification of and through women’s bodies and sexuality reveals how the seemingly informal sexual economy worked at the center of the US military expansion in the emerging years of the Cold War. 

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About the speaker:
Jeongmin Kim is a historian of modern Korea and East Asia with a focus on gender and sexuality, social and labor history, and US war and occupation in the Asia Pacific. She is completing a monograph on the subject of US military capitalism in early Cold War Asia, focusing on triangular sexual economies that formed across the US, Japan and Korea during the Korean War. Parts of this project have been published in the Radical History Review (2019) and American Historical Review (2022). Her 2022 article won the 2023 Judith Lee Ridge Prize from the Western Association of Women Historians.

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