Within the United States, the Korean War has never attracted the memory culture that other twentieth-century wars do. Korea is remembered only for not being remembered, as the “forgotten war.” And yet, as commentators continue to characterize the war on terror as an unparalleled era marked by permanent war, literary authors are returning to Korea to tell a different story. Many of these authors trace the rhetorical and material origin of the war on terror back to 1945, when the United States established a military government in Korea, and 1950, when the war began in earnest. It was Korea, they remind us, that provided the rationale for building a permanent standing military and a global network of more than seven hundred military installations around the world. Those mining this history include some of the most acclaimed American novelists writing today: Ha Jin in War Trash (2004), Philip Roth in Indignation (2008), Chang-rae Lee in The Surrendered (2010), and Toni Morrison in Home (2012). In considering the literary afterlife of the Korean War, I begin with an analysis of the biopolitical logic of defense that arose after World War II during a time of American global ascendancy and heightened anticommunism. Second, I discuss the understanding of the Korean War as “forgotten,” an idea first introduced in 1951 but more recently taken up by memory studies scholars, before advancing an alternative narrative theory of the Korean War. And finally, I consider the twenty-first-century literary return of the Korean War through readings of Jin’s War Trash and Morrison’s Home. These novels advance counternarratives of the Korean War. Refusing the bracketed, three-year history of the war, they instead reveal the basis of an enduring warfare state in Korea and locate the war on terror in this legacy.

References

References
Agamben
Giorgio
.
1998
.
Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
. Translated by
Heller-Roazen
Daniel
.
Stanford, CA
:
Stanford Univ. Press
.
———.
2005
.
State of Exception
. Translated by
Attell
Kevin
.
Chicago
:
Univ. of Chicago Press
.
Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study
.”
2007
.
Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
,
University of Virginia
. .
Butler
Judith
.
2004
.
Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence
.
London
:
Verso
.
Cho
Grace M.
2008
.
Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War
.
Minneapolis
:
Univ. of Minnesota Press
.
Choi
Suhi
.
2014
.
Embattled Memories: Contested Meanings in Korean War Memorials
.
Reno
:
Univ. of Nevada Press
.
Cumings
Bruce
.
2009
.
Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power
.
New Haven
:
Yale Univ. Press
.
———.
2010
.
The Korean War: A History
.
New York
:
Modern Library
.
Dudziak
Mary L.
2012
.
War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences
.
New York
:
Oxford Univ. Press
.
Foucault
Michel
.
2003
.
“Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France
. Translated by
Macey
David
.
New York
:
Picador
.
Halberstam
David
.
2007
.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
.
New York
:
Hyperion
.
Jin
Ha
.
2004
.
War Trash
.
New York
:
Pantheon
.
———.
2008
.
The Writer as Migrant
.
Chicago
:
Univ. of Chicago Press
.
Johnston
Andrew M.
2005
.
Hegemony and Culture in the Origins of NATO Nuclear First Use, 1945–1955
.
New York
:
Palgrave Macmillan
.
Kim
Daniel Y.
2009
. “
‘Bled In, Letter by Letter’: Translation, Postmemory, and the Subject of Korean War: History in Susan Choi’s The Foreign Student
.”
American Literary History
21
, no.
3
:
550
83
.
Kim
Eleana J.
2010
.
Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging
.
Durham, NC
:
Duke Univ. Press
.
Kim
Jodi
.
2010
.
Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War
.
Minnesota
:
Univ. of Minnesota Press
.
Klein
Christina
.
2003
.
Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945–1961
.
Berkeley and Los Angeles
:
Univ. of California Press
.
Lee
Chang-rae
.
2010
.
The Surrendered
.
New York
:
Riverhead Books
.
McGurl
Mark
.
2009
.
The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing
.
Cambridge
:
Harvard Univ. Press
.
Melamed
Jodi
.
2011
.
Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism
.
Minneapolis
:
Univ. of Minnesota Press
.
Morrison
Toni
.
2012
.
Home
.
New York
:
Knopf
.
———.
2013
.
Interview by Torrene Boone. YouTube video, 1:00:37. From an interview streamed by Google on February 27. Posted March 4
. .
NARA (National Archives and Records Administration)
.
1947
.
National Security Act of 1947. Pub. L. No. 80–253, 61 Stat. 495
.
———.
1949
.
National Security Act Amendments of 1949. Pub. L. 81–216, 63 Stat. 578
.
NSC (National Security Council)
.
1950
. “
NSC-68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security
.”
April
14
.
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
. .
Obama
Barack
.
2013
. “
Remarks by the President at the National Defense University
.”
May
23
.
The White House
. .
Phillips
Kimberley L.
2012
.
War! What Is It Good For? Black Freedom Struggles and the US Military from World War II to Iraq
.
Chapel Hill
:
Univ. of North Carolina Press
.
Rhem
Kathleen T.
2000
. “
Korean War Death Stats Highlight Modern DoD Safety Record
.”
American Forces Press Service
,
June
8
. .
Roth
Philip
.
2008
.
Indignation
.
Boston
:
Houghton Mifflin
.
Singh
Nikhil Pal
.
2009
. “
Beyond the ‘Empire of Jim Crow’: Race and War in Contemporary US Globalism
.”
Japanese Journal of American Studies
20
:
89
111
.
Smith
Frederick C.
Miller
Franklin C.
.
2011
. “
The Office of the Secretary of Defense: Civilian Masters?
” In
The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth
, edited by
George
Roger Z.
Rishikof
Harvey
,
97
116
.
Washington, DC
:
Georgetown Univ. Press
.
Sparrow
James T.
2011
.
Warfare State: World War II Americans and the Age of Big Government
.
New York
:
Oxford Univ. Press
.
Sturken
Marita
.
1997
.
Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering
.
Berkeley and Los Angeles
:
Univ. of California Press
.
Truman
Harry S.
1949
. “
Statement by the President upon Signing the National Security Act Amendments of 1949
.”
August
10
.
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
. .
Wald
Priscilla
.
2008
.
Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative
.
Durham, NC
:
Duke Univ. Press
.
Xinqiu
Xie
.
2012
. “
War Trash: War Memoir as ‘False Document.’
Amerasia Journal
38
, no.
2
:
35
42
.
Young
Marilyn
.
2013
. “
Reflections on the Korean War and Its Armistice
.”
Journal of Asian Studies
18
, no.
2
:
403
6
.
This content is only available as a PDF.