Publication Date

2012

Degree Name

MA in Conflict Transformation

First Advisor

Tatsushi Arai

Abstract

The Korea War has left deep scars on the psyches of Koreans in Korea and throughout the world. Among many ordeals that Korean citizens had to suffer during and after the war, the separation of the family was one of the most tragic continuing results of the war. Countless individuals were forcibly severed from their family members in North Korea and most haven’t seen their separated relatives for over six decades. There have been 18 rounds of reunions between North and South Koreans since a historic summit talk in June 2000. However, Korean-American members of divided families cannot participate in such reunions with their Korean relatives. They are not eligible to even apply for the reunion program because they are American citizens and only Korean citizens are eligible to apply to participate.

The personal histories of nine Korean-Americans are related herein. Their stories cover an important chapter of Korean and U.S. history before and after the Korean War. The nine Korean-Americans’ hard life as war refugees and life-long yearning and search for their flesh and blood serve as a reminder of wars’ effect on humanity and humans’ response to war: the brutal nature of war being legitimately used as a mechanism for peace-keeping, devastating effects of war on civilians, and family values.

The demographic characteristic of the divided family issue adds urgency to this matter: solutions must be found sooner rather than later, or any solution will be moot—the divided family members will have died. A reunion amongst divided Korean-American families could open a new avenue for the U.S. and North Korea to resolve the issue of North Korean nuclear weapons: an avenue not of confrontation, but of negotiation and dialogue; an avenue to build mutual confidence and trust; and finally commencement of normal diplomatic relationship.

Disciplines

Critical and Cultural Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | International and Intercultural Communication | International Relations | Politics and Social Change