North Korea has always served as a “devil function,” an enormously useful enemy for the United States.
The Korean War, coming as it did on the heels of World War II, sparked an economic boom domestically and legitimated the unprecedented worldwide garrisoning of large numbers of American troops in a network of bases around the world. In essence, it furnished the occasion for a remilitarized remapping of the globe that in turn enabled the reconstruction of the world market under American auspices.
It began in 1945 when the occupation line was drawn at the 38th parallel. Two junior US Army officers, Charles Bonasteel and Dean Rusk, armed with nothing more than a National Geographic map, split Korea in two within half an hour. This separated one in three families and prompted a war of national reunification.
During a three-year window, 3.5 million North Koreans, the majority of them civilians, were killed. At the hands of the United States, North Koreans suffered one of the most appalling, unrestrained bombing campaigns in our genocidal 20th century, and ever since they have been shouting themselves hoarse at a nation of amnesiacs [the United States] who aren’t listening.
For Americans, the Korean War may have slipped into the ash heap of history and is, at best, a vague footnote. For the North Koreans, the so-called “Forgotten War” has had indelible consequences.
Never in the mainstream US media do you hear that North Korea has asked the United States for a peace treaty more than 100 times. The image of North Korea as a country that actively seeks peace is not consonant with the jingoistic caricature that we’re typically confronted with in mainstream media policy discourse.
In my dial-up youth I was determined to be as dreamy and wide-eyed about the natural world as the fictional character Anne Shirley, so I recited “The Lady of Shalott” on a bed of clovers in my yard as a sort of chant that would comfort the trees and sidewalk—things I turned into living, feeling beings. Then, in the saturnine days of middle school, I found comfort in the fantasia of Plath and Sexton. I remember writing wry little stanzas that I felt proud to see in an edition of Hands on Stanzas and presenting the poem about molasses and fat mothers to my father. As I grew to understand my mother more, I became more convinced by the lyrical beauty and ethical depth of poetry. Words impress themselves behind my eyes.
I love books like that too! Which is why I loved Mike Jung’s Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities, bc the MC is a Korean American boy but the story is not about his identity at all - but that of the superhero! And Malinda Lo’s Adaptation which is a suspenseful sci fi thriller, has one of the romantic leads, David, who is Chinese American. There’s also Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments (Magnus) and Infernal Devices (Jem) series with Asian characters who’s race has nothing to do with the storyline. But it’s late now and my brain is starting to shut down. I keep coming up with books where the race is definitely a part of the story and having to cross them off. Hopefully, the tumblr community can come up with some more recs to help us out here!
Off the top of my head, I know of Kimberly Pauley’s “Cat Girl Day’s Off,” Lisa Yee’s “Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time,” and Justina Chen’s “Girl Overboard?” You might want to check out Laurence Yep’s (Chinese-American) and David Yoo’s (he’s Korean-American) books as well. And not about Chinese people per se, but Tahereh Mafi’s “Shatter Me” series features a Japanese MC, Kenji Kishimoto, and from what I recall, Myra McEntire’s “Hourglass” series features a Samoan MC, Dune Ta’ala, who is one of the main characters in the last book in the series, “Infinityglass.” Likewise, Ellen Oh’s “Prophecy” series and Linda Sue Park’s “Archer’s Quest” (both historical fantasy reads) might interest you as well. Hope that helps! I did create this YA & MG Speculative Fiction List and a separate Sino and Sino-Americans List too…