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Imperial Entertainers: Korean Women Camp Show Entertainers' Transnational Performance under US Hegemony, 1937-1975

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Title:Imperial Entertainers: Korean Women Camp Show Entertainers' Transnational Performance under US Hegemony, 1937-1975
Authors:Lee, Yu Jung
Keywords:Camp Shows
Korean Women
US Military
Date Issued:Dec 2016
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2016]
Abstract:This dissertation explores Korean women camp show entertainers' labor performance in the context of the US military expansion in Asia and the Pacific from World War II to the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The years from 1937 to 1975 covered in my study mark the rise, peak and decline of American camp show entertainment and Korean women's profession as camp show entertainers. After the end of the Korean War when the Eighth United States Army was assigned to remain in South Korea, Korean native camp shows became highly successful and lucrative by substituting the roles of American entertainers with local, cheaper talent. These native shows were presented at the US military clubs within military installations to make American soldiers feel at home by providing live entertainment, and helping them relax through familiar American music. A considerable number of Korean entertainers who worked at the EUSAK (Eighth United States Army in Korea) clubs pursued overseas careers in the United States and/or the Southeast Asia war zone with the rapid deployment troops during the Vietnam War (1954-1975). The military labor infrastructures developed by the US military throughout war zones and occupied countries across Asia and the Pacific were also interconnected with the US domestic entertainment markets, which enabled the American debut of certain camp show entertainers. This dissertation examines female Korean camp show entertainers' performances of 'American mimicry' as an idiosyncratic form which emerged at the critical moment of US-Korea relations. Focusing on the roots and routes of Korean women entertainers' performances, this study explores how they negotiated and navigated their performances to make them appealing to American audiences. Korean entertainers' performances of 'American mimicry' were not simply a product forced by American imperial influences but embodied a capacity for resistance and disrupted stereotypical notions of race, gender, and sexuality. Although it was true that Korean entertainers embraced American ideas and values and performed the forms of entertainment desired by American audiences, their performances reveal that not all American ways and values were accepted by these women; there was complexity within these Korean entertainers' meaning-making around their roles in engaging with the US military. While performing on stages to entertain American audiences, Korean women entertainers confronted circumvented existing conflicts over race, class, gender, and sexuality, and disrupted stereotypical notions of Asian women. Moreover, they found enjoyment and pleasure on stage, and took their performing careers as opportunities to pursue their personal aspirations for success, secure stable lives, and independence.
Description:Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2016.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - American Studies

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