“Queer Korea” edited by Todd A. Henry— Looking at Gay Korea

Henry, Todd A., editor. “Queer Korea”, Duke University Press, 2020.

Looking at Gay Korea

Amos Lassen

Koreans have “faced successive waves of foreign domination, authoritarian regimes, forced dispersal, and divided development” since the end of the nineteenth century. Through all of this, “queer” Koreans were ignored, minimized, and erased in narratives of their modern nation, East Asia, and the wider world. Now we have this interdisciplinary study that “challenges this marginalization through critical analyses of non-normative sexuality and gender variance.” The authors included look at both personal and collective forces and extend individualized notions of queer neoliberalism beyond those that have been typically set in Western queer theory. They also look at a range of topics  including “shamanic rituals during the colonial era and B-grade comedy films under Cold War dictatorship to toxic masculinity in today’s South Korean military and transgender confrontations with the resident registration system.”  We gain new ways of understanding the limits and possibilities of human liberation under exclusionary conditions of modernity in Asia and beyond.
This is a fascinating look at Korea and a work of scholarship that brings together historical, social science, and cultural analysis that shatter myths about Korean sexuality and relationships and gives voice to those who have had no voice thus bringing Korean queerness into the mainstream of Korean and East Asian studies.

Table of Contents: 

Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Queer Korea: Toward a Field of Engagement / Todd A. Henry  1
Part I. Unruly Subjects Under Colonial and Postcolonial Modernity
1. Ritual Specialists in Colonial Drag: Shamanic Interventions in 1920s Korea / Merose Hwang  55
2. Telling Queer Time in a Straight Empire: Yi Sang’s “Wings” (1936) / John Whittier Treat  90
3. Problematizing Love: The Intimate Event and Same-Sex Love in Colonial Korea / Pei Jean Chen  117
4. Femininity under the Wartime System and the Symptomacity of Female Same-Sex Love / Shin-ae Ha (Translated by Kyunghee Eo) 146
5. A Female-Dressed Man Sings a National Epic: The Film Male Kisaeng and the Politics of Gender and Sexuality in 1960s South Korea / Chung-kang Kim  175
6. Queer Lives as Cautionary Tales: Female Homoeroticism and the Heteropatriarchal Imagination of Authoritarian South Korea / Todd A. Henry  205
Part II. Citizens, Consumers, Soldiers, and Activists in Postauthoritarian Times
7. The Three Faces of South Korea’s Male Homosexuality: Pogal, Iban and Neoliberal Gay / John (Song Pae) Cho  263
8. Avoiding T’ibu (Obvious Butchness): Invisibility as a Survival Strategy among Young Queer Women in South Korea / Layoung Shin  295
9. Ripples of Trauma: Queer Bodies and the Temporality of Violence in the South Korean Military / Timothy Gitzen  323
10. Mobile Numbers and Gender Transitions: The Resident Registration System, the Nation-State, and Trans/gender Identities / Ruin (Translated by Max Balhorn)  357
Contributors  377

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