Wednesday, June 25, 2008

July 1st, NYC's KEEP Fundraiser: Remembered Hunger

Remembered Hunger: Readings & Performances by Lee Herrick, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, and Kim Sunee

Join KEEP in celebrating its 14th year for a night of readings and performances from guest readers, learn about previous KEEP trips, and meet with past and future KEEP participants!

WHEN: Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 7-9 PM
WHERE: The Asian American Writer's Workshop
16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A, New York, NY 10001
Suggested donation: $10

CONTACT: Betsy,, 425-770-1106,

A b o u t t h e A u t h o r s :

Lee Herrick is the author of the poetry collection This Many Miles from Desire (WordTech Editions, 2007). He was born south of Seoul, Korea and adopted at ten months. His poems have been published in the Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, The Bloomsbury Review, Many Mountains Moving and MiPOesias as well as anthologized in Seeds from a Silent Tree: An Anthology of Korean Adoptees, Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita and Highway 99: A Literary Journey through California's Great Central Valley. He is the founding editor of In the Grove literary journal and teaches at Fresno City College in Fresno, California.

Jennifer Kwon Dobbs is a poet, librettist, teacher, and critic. She was born in Won Su Ji, South Korea. Her debut poetry collection, Paper Pavilion (White Pine Press 2007), received the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in 5 AM, Crazyhorse, Cimarron Review, Cream City Review, MiPOesias, Poetry NZ and the Tulane Review as well as anthologized in Echoes Upon Echoes (Asian American Writers Workshop 2003) and Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (W.W. Norton 2008). Dobbs holds a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California and teaches English at St. Olaf College.

Kim Sunée was born in South Korea, adopted, and raised in New Orleans. She lived in Europe for more than ten years where she owned an all-poetry bookshop in Paris. She is the author of Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home (January 2008, Grand Central). Her book, a memoir with recipes, was selected for the Spring 2008 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program and is a January 2008 Booksense Pick. She is the founding food editor of Cottage Living and worked previously as a food editor for Southern Living.

KEEP'er Jennifer Kwon Dobbs herself is reading this night!
Please forward this on to your New York-dwelling peeps, and you can also click on the flier and save it to your computer too to forward.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

People's Committees in southern Korea 1945-47

Another little-mentioned aspect of Korea before and after division are the people's committees that quickly formed all throughout Korea upon the end of World War II and Japan's defeat, from August 15, 1945.

In understanding the general lack of awareness about people's committees in this time, we can point to the fact that these insitutions of self-rule were promptly and thoroughly suppressed by the United States military government as soon as they came to occupy the southern part of the peninsula in September.

What were people's committees? Briefly, they were local self-governing bodies which organized all aspects of political, economic, and social decision-making necessary to restore peoples' lives and basic services as the Japanese colonial government left. They kept the order and organized food harvesting and distribution, set up legal bodies, etc. They were of various political ideologies, and only excluded those people who had collaborated most closely with the Japanese.

But when the Japanese colonial administration left, they convinced US military commanders that the emergence of these political bodies was led by Communists. So the US military government also sought to eradicate these independent people's committees. Naturally the most conservative elements of Korean society, such as the landlords who had profited under Japanese colonialism, were also against the redistribution and justice-oriented designs of the people's committees.

The picture below, of this time period, shows the extent and geographic spread of these people's committees in the South, and challenges the idea that people in Korea were not ready to govern themselves.

What else do people know about people's committees?
Another link (from US Library of Congress sources, no less) on people's committees.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

SILENCE: thoughts on the Japanese colonial legacy

Koreans executed during Japanese colonial period (marked with bullet practice signs)

That Koreans are a post-colonial (or even neo-colonized) people hardly seems to come up in the celebratory spin of the country as an economic powerhouse. That Japanese colonialism didn't simply 'end' in 1945 is rarely questioned.

What we keep returning to in our New York discussions is the deep-rooted impact of Japanese colonial occupation on not just the material realities of the time, the obvious exploitation of both Korean resources and labor, but also how the legacy is also psychic, relational, generational in terms of the way it fragmented and displaced and divided people from each other- which was then aped and magnified by the US military government when it occupied the south in 1945.

Who is the "I" of colonial Korea? What is the spectrum of complicity and resistance among Koreans living in this period? How do we address the fact that the social, economic, and political infrastructure of modern south Korea has been built on the foundation of those Koreans who benefited the most from collaborating with colonial Japan, who are still in power today?

And for all the witnesses and survivors speaking out decades later (such as those 할머니 who are still living among the 100,000-200,000 Korean comfort women), how hard was it to break the silence in the authoritarian, patriarchal nationalism of south Korea?

And so someone mentioned that what we are doing, what is still necessary, is excavating. Instead of History, we are unearthing histories - of everything that could not be spoken, that was taboo, that was buried, muffled, silenced, stored in secret all these years.

What do these histories mean to us now? How do they live on in the present for you?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New York's 학습 meeting schedule

Here is the schedule for New York KEEPers' study sessions for this year's program. The KEEP reader also follows this flow. We meet from 6:30-9:30 pm.

June 12- Introduction to KEEP
June 16- Legacies of Japanese colonialism and Independence movements
June 17- Post-Liberation (Division, US military government), Korean War and Syngman Rhee dictatorship
June 23- Park Chunghee dictatorship and economic development
June 24- Kwangju uprising and a turn toward democracy
June 30- Neoliberalism in South Korea (Trade, globalization, labor policies)
July 1-(subject to change)- 6.15.00 Summit and the unification movement

Generally, we are beginning each session by practicing our introductions in Korean, and we end each session by translating and singing some movement songs.

Our recipe: 1 facilitator. 1 Guitar. Food to share. Videos and pictures. 2 small children running around. Many voices. Shake, stir.