Plotting Colonial Independence: Intra-Asian Conflict in the Novels of Richard Kim

Plotting Colonial Independence: Intra-Asian Conflict in the Novels of Richard Kim Abstract Over the past fifteen years, Asian American studies has experienced a resurgence of interest in pioneering Korean American author Richard E. Kim. This interest stems in part from the disciplinary shifts in the field brought about by the transnational turn. Yet Kim’s novels argue implicitly for a mode of reading Asian American literature that is not merely transnational but also intra-Asian, prompting us to rethink the geographic boundaries of Asian American literary studies to account for a history of conflict among Asian nations—specifically the history of colonial conflict between Korea and Japan. This essay takes a critical approach that combines sustained attention to the historical context of Japanese imperialism with a narratological attention to the specific formal techniques Kim employs—the figure of the report, indirect invocations of a hidden resistance, and the strategic use of gendered metaphors—to transform Japanese, Korean and US colonial history in ways that subtly reimagine Korea’s history of colonial subjugation. Kim’s novels rewrite the colonial history of East Asia, symbolically enacting the overthrow of Korea’s colonial oppressors and depicting a powerful and fully sovereign Korea. In the process, Kim’s work demonstrates the value of expanding transnational Asian American literary study beyond a narrow focus on the projection of US power abroad. This changed transnational perspective decenters the United States as a necessary and inevitable geographical point of orientation, opening up new avenues of interpretation for ethnic US literature. The novels of pioneering Korean American author Richard E. Kim require an expanded transnational reading practice that foregrounds intra-Asian geopolitical contexts rather than US-centric contexts. Careful attention to the context of Japanese imperialism and to Kim’s strategies of representation shows that Kim’s novels present a masculinized vision of national empowerment that reimagines the history of Korean colonial subjugation and positions Korea as a fully independent modern power. In this way, Kim’s work challenges Cold War-influenced perceptions of Korea that position Korea and East Asia as subordinated territories under broader US influence and control. His novels also underscore important intra-Asian tensions, often overlooked in critical discourse, that have profoundly impacted Asian American cultural production. Over the past fifteen years, Asian American studies has experienced a resurgence of interest in Richard Kim’s work, due in part to the disciplinary shifts in the field brought about by the transnational turn. Several scholars have contributed greatly to the development of transnational Asian American studies, including David Palumbo-Liu, Rachel Lee, Kandice Chuh, Aihwa Ong, Victor Bascara, Naoko Shibusawa, and Jodi Kim. The groundbreaking work in the field is perhaps Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996), which argues that understanding the figure of the immigrant from Asia “is fundamental to understanding the racialized foundations of both the emergence of the United States as a nation and the development of American capitalism” (ix). Lowe broadens her focus beyond US borders to include US intervention in Asia and to highlight the process by which the Asian immigrant becomes assimilated (and not assimilated) into the nation. Lowe proposes “a new political subject allegorized by the ‘immigrant’”—a subject “articulated simultaneously within both U.S. national and global frameworks” (34). Recasting Asian Americans through the figure of the immigrant has encouraged Asian Americanists to reconsider the significance of Asian contexts in the field. The transnational turn has shown how the field’s traditional focus on discrimination within the United States often draws attention away from the profound ways that US actions involving Asia have shaped the lives and the public perception of Asian Americans in US culture. The field’s expanded focus now embraces works set entirely in Asia, and Asian Americanists are considering how those works also register the political, military, economic, and cultural power of the United States. The turn to the transnational has prompted a debate among scholars over the centrality of the United States in Asian American studies.1 Even as transnationalist scholars extend their view beyond the borders of the United States, they have often focused almost exclusively on the projection of US power abroad. Scholars must build on the existing scholarship, however, by expanding transnational Asian American literary study beyond the predominantly US-centric bounds of Asian American studies to focus on important intra-Asian contexts. Rather than adopting a US-centric perspective, or a binary approach that perceives the transnational as an interaction between center and periphery, scholars must approach the transnational context of Asian American literature as a fundamentally polycentric product of interactions between and among diverse Asian geopolitical entities. One must balance the panethnic emphasis of Asian American studies with increased attention to the intra-Asian pressures that have been a central focus within the field of Asian studies.2 Exploring and developing the intersection of Asian American studies and Asian area studies allows us to reframe transnational Asian American studies as a more triangulated, polycentric network of influences in which the United States is important but not always and automatically central. One figure who illustrates the value of this newly emerging area of Asian American literary scholarship is the Korean American novelist Richard E. Kim.3 Kim was born in South Korea in 1932, grew up during the Japanese occupation, and served in the South Korean military during the Korean War as a US military liaison. He immigrated to the United States following the war and attended several American universities before writing his three major works: The Martyred (1964), The Innocent (1968), and Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood (1970). Kim continued to work as a writer and academic, primarily in the United States, until his death in 2009.4 All three of Kim’s major fictional works are set entirely in East Asia. The Martyred takes place during the Korean War (1950-53), and its sequel, The Innocent, features the same narrator and depicts a military coup in South Korea some years after the Korean War. Lee’s third work, Lost Names, takes place from 1932 to 1945 and presents a series of brief “scenes” narrated by an unnamed Korean boy during the Japanese occupation. Collectively, the books recount three successive struggles on Korean soil: against the Japanese, between North and South Korea, and between military and political factions in South Korea. Kim is therefore a crucial figure for exploring the shifting concerns of Asian American studies today. Although Kim was a best-selling author in the 1960s, he received comparatively little critical and popular attention until quite recently. Kim’s 1970 semiautobiographical novel Lost Names only returned to print in 1998, and the limited scholarship on Kim has largely alternated between two interpretive approaches: treating Kim’s work either as an authentic record of conditions in Korea or as a humanistic expression of universal truths and experiences.5 Neither of these approaches recognizes the extent to which Kim’s novels self-consciously employ sophisticated literary strategies that reimagine Korea’s colonial and postcolonial history and challenge more conventional understandings of Korea’s position in East Asia and the world. For example, Kim’s literary revisions of history target “history” both in terms of the historical fact of Korea’s colonial subjugation by Japan and the historical perception that it continued to be subordinated to the United States even after its colonial liberation. In 2011, however, Penguin reissued The Martyred, and recent articles by Steven Belletto and Christine Hong highlight the 1964 novel as an important Cold War text, inaugurating a new phase of critical interpretation. These authors amply demonstrate how the novel critically engages with the complex historical context of the Korean War, which involves multiple parties—including North and South Korea, the United States and its allies, China, and the Soviet Union—and deeply reflects the broader framework of the emerging Cold War, the histories of conflict among nations within the region, and World War II.6 My analysis of The Martyred focuses more narrowly on two key aspects of the novel: first, its obsession with the malleability of historical memory and the manipulation of representation to achieve political effects; and second, the extent to which The Martyred presents a historical perspective that differs from dominant US understandings of the conflict. Kim reimagines the Korean War as waged almost exclusively by Koreans, where US involvement is distinctly and pointedly muted, to recast the dynamics between South Korea and the United States as a partnership of equal sovereign states. As Belletto and Hong have shown, Kim’s fiction engages with prevailing narratives of Korean history at a metacritical level. Belletto argues that The Martyred constitutes a “meta-engagement . . . with the Cold War rhetorical frame that shift[s] the meaning of the war away from US claims about it” (54-55). The novel challenges US-generated, hegemonic representations of the Korean War, which “viewed” Korea “only as a proxy” (53) within a “US-centered Cold War frame” (58). Hong writes: “Kim’s self-reflexive account of the Korean War . . . posits the first hot war of the Cold War as a strategic fiction and locates its ongoing contestation on discursive terrain” (142). Hong argues that The Martyred’s “metafictional account” of wartime intelligence activities “highlights the strategic value of fiction in the ideological remapping of terrain deemed, in the novel’s language, ‘Red’” (146). The Martyred makes the politics of representing the Korean War a central theme. In the process, it both asserts Korean agency and critiques US-centric narratives about the Korean War. Yet, Kim’s novels also prompt us to rethink the geographic boundaries of Asian American literary studies to account for a history of conflict among Asian nations—specifically the history of colonial conflict between Korea and Japan. Kim’s three novels involve different time periods, plots, and antagonists. Viewing the novels through the lens of Japanese colonization, however, reveals profound continuities in subject matter and strategies of representation. Kim’s fictional works—particularly his second and third novels—collectively rewrite Korea’s legacy of colonial subjugation. First, The Martyred strategically transforms the Korean War into a predominantly Korean conflict independent of US influence even as it foregrounds the importance of controlling the representation of historical events. Kim’s second novel, The Innocent, similarly renarrates the history of postcolonial Korea to challenge Korea’s subordinate position relative to the United States. Kim’s third novel, Lost Names, then carefully rewrites Japan’s colonial subjugation of Korea. Examining all three novels together shows how, in many respects, Kim’s second novel fulfills the ambition articulated in Lost Names to assert Korea’s political autonomy through an unambiguous display of Korean military power and effectiveness. Close attention to the historical context of Japanese imperialism and the specific formal techniques Kim employs—the figure of the report, indirect invocations of a hidden resistance, and the strategic use of gendered metaphors—shows how Kim’s fictional works transform Japanese, Korean, and US colonial history. Kim’s novels retrospectively imagine into being a violent, militarized Korean resistance to colonial domination and enact the successful overthrow of Korea’s colonial oppressors.7 The novels reimagine Korea’s colonial struggle as a struggle for narrative control, where narrative authority becomes productively conflated with geopolitical sovereignty. By seizing narrative authority, the novels seek to rewrite the colonial history of East Asia. Through their assertion of a more fully sovereign modern Korean state, capable of decisive military warfare against its oppressors, Kim’s novels challenge Korea’s ostensible history of imperial subjugation to Japan and the West. In this way, Kim’s novels show how Asian American texts often undercut the panethnic solidarity presumed by Asian American scholars via narrower nationalistic representations that foreground conflicts between Asian nations of origin. The Martyred is narrated by Captain Lee, a young South Korean army officer serving in political intelligence and stationed in the North Korean city Pyongyang. The events of the novel occur during the brief time that South Korean, US, and UN forces occupied Pyongyang. Although the characters frequently receive reports on the progress of the war, such events are not the novel’s primary focus. Rather, the novel focuses on the events that follow the arrest and execution of several North Korean Christian ministers by communist forces, prior to the South’s occupation. Captain Lee and his superior, Colonel Chang, investigate what happened to the ministers and explore how they might use this incident to vilify the communists and win the sympathies of Koreans in the North. Much of the drama involves the interactions between the political intelligence officers and the two ministers who survived the execution: the key character Reverend Shin and a younger minister, Mr. Hann. As Hong puts it, “war is almost abstract in The Martyred, its usual signs absent” (147). The Martyred is a war novel without a war. It presents the Korean War as a covert war fought by intelligence officers, as much a matter of interrogation rooms and propaganda leaflets as jeeps, tanks, and soldiers on the ground. At one point, the narrator states: “I had been tricked into a sort of nice little game, in which both the pursuer and the pursued skillfully staged a clever play of intrigues, of plots and counterplots, all this only to reveal that they were fellow conspirators, after all” (R. Kim, Martyred 127; emphasis added). Here the words “staged,” “play,” and “plots” show the extent to which the novel treats political intelligence, wartime propaganda, theatrical performance, and literary representation as overlapping and coordinated strategies for achieving geopolitical aims. The Martyred makes propaganda a central narrative theme, presenting competing, politically motivated versions of the truth. The characters obtain much of their information secondhand through oral and written reports, the veracity of which is constantly in question. The text is dominated as much by what is not depicted and determinate as what is actually shown and known. This indirectness and foregrounding of representational practices is characteristic of Kim’s fiction. The pointed revelations about the malleability of truth, history, and reporting serve as a metanarrative commentary on the novel’s construction of the history it purports only to depict. The novel’s apparent reluctance to confront the war as a thing itself is not so much an acknowledgement of the limits of literary reconstruction as it is a tactical relation to history, a desire to blur the lines between literary suggestion and historical “fact”—generating not a wholly alternative history that can be dismissed as fantasy and fiction but something more subtly woven into the historical discourse. In this way, literary indirection can effectively shift the reader’s perception of Korean history. On the surface, The Martyred seems entirely unconcerned with Korea’s colonial past, mentioning Japan only rarely. By contrast, the novel’s Cold War context registers clearly through its harsh depiction of the communists, its efforts to align all of Korea with the South, and the extent to which it promotes identification between South Korea and the United States. Yet the novel “significantly rescripts the historical record” of the Korean War (Hong 156) in ways that strategically assert Korea’s power and independence and deemphasize the roles played by external powers such as the United States. As Hong puts it, “at almost every turn the novel disavows the driving U.S. role in the war” (153). US forces rarely appear in the novel, and there are no significant American characters among an overwhelmingly Korean cast of characters. The muted US presence signals the novel’s resistant reimagining of the Korean conflict as one conducted almost exclusively by South Koreans. When Colonel Chang declares, “I am not going to let anyone defile our cause. I am not going to let anyone give the Reds an upper hand” (91), he asserts the agency of the South Koreans in the conflict and South Korea’s autonomy from US control. Indictments of the communists as unwelcome outsiders arguably comment on not only the Soviet but also the US imperial presence on the peninsula. In The Martyred, the United States is subtly but firmly decentered, becoming a marginal presence in a Korean War waged by South Korean forces against the communist threat. The South Korean political intelligence and the novel itself work propagandistically to present an independent South Korea that is aligned with the United States as an autonomous ally rather than a state subject to US imperialist influence. Thus, while The Martyred has little to do with Japanese imperialism directly, it employs many of the same techniques as Kim’s later works to achieve the same outcome: the presentation of a carefully altered history that asserts Korea’s autonomy and its emergence from imperialist domination. The Innocent seems similarly to depict South Korea’s struggle to free itself from US influence. Published second among Kim’s novels but set last in the historical timeline, The Innocent takes place in the turbulent decades after the Korean War and narrates the efforts of a group of idealistic colonels to overthrow a corrupt and oppressive government. The group is led by Major Lee’s close friend Colonel Min and includes the narrator Major Lee and several coconspirators. Min and his colleagues seize control of the government amid unanticipated bloodshed that results from a series of betrayals. At the moment of apparent victory, as forces loyal to the coup secure control over the country, Colonel Min is killed in a surprise attack, leaving the future less certain than it had appeared. These events in the novel seem linked to actual events in South Korean history. The newly formed country experienced two separate “nights of the colonels”—military coups against the central government—first on 16 May 1961 and then again in 1979, after the publication of The Innocent in 1968. An epigraph among the novel’s prefatory materials offers a disclaimer about the novel’s depiction of the coup, which effectively encourages the comparison it claims to disavow: The author wishes to make it very clear that all the characters, military units, and events described, mentioned, and implied in this book are fictitious, and that any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, to actual military units bearing certain designations used in this book, and particularly to the history background of the 5.16 Military Revolution in Korea is purely coincidental. The actual 16 May coup ushered in the oppressive eighteen-year rule of Colonel Park Chung-hee and his coconspirator Kim Jong-pil, founder of the powerful intelligence and security agency, the KCIA. The historical bloodless coup overthrew not the postwar authoritarian government of Syngman Rhee, as the novel implies, but rather a democratically elected government under the prime minister, Chang Myŏn. Chang was elected after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of Rhee in the 19 April Revolution of 1960 and came to face criticism for being unduly influenced by the United States (Cumings, Korea’s 349-52). The Innocent thus reimagines not only the circumstances of the coup itself but also the political situation that it militates against, drawing from different aspects of the governments that existed both before and after the historical 1961 coup. While the events depicted in The Innocent are fictional, the text’s relation to actual historical events is calculated and strategic. The narrative seems to offer a more promising, almost idealized re-creation of the historical coup. The novel claims the license to reimagine a military coup with positive ambitions, one set in opposition to a thoroughly corrupt government that perpetuates the oppressions of Korea’s colonial past. The Innocent suggests that South Koreans exhibit an enduring colonial mindset, now largely focused on the United States. Several South Korean government figures are described as US “stooges” (48), and the narrator decries “the sweeping tide of stupidity, evil, corruption, injustice, and flunkyism, a blind, subservient, material and spiritual dependence on the American aid” (240). US Army intelligence officer Colonel McKay represents the US influence in Korea. McKay’s involvement in the coup, as both consultant and participant, is carefully scripted as the novel delicately balances Korean ideological identification with the United States and assertions of Korean independence from the United States. The central figure of the narrative is Colonel Min, whom the text constructs as an almost mythic figure of action. Min’s story encompasses several different lives in one: humble farmer, respected scholar, and military officer in the Japanese, South Korean, and communist armies. Toward the end of the novel, Colonel Min confronts his opponent General Ham in a highly symbolic encounter that serves to consolidate South Korea’s new position of strength. This confrontation is explicitly figured as a “showdown” and is staged under circumstances that recall a cowboy duel (304). Min and Ham face off across an airstrip, flanked on each side by massed military might. Min defeats Ham in part by striking a deal with the United States over the lives of two North Korean spies, and the novel depicts the negotiations between Min and the US representative, Colonel McKay, as high-profile power brokering between two relative equals. Min criticizes opponents of the coup for their colonial mindset, linking their past “fawning” behavior toward the Japanese with their “slavish” “whor[ing]” of Korea to the Americans (341-42). Min then declares to his coconspirators: [I]f [the Americans] genuinely wish to cooperate with us, then they will have to realize that they no longer have a bunch of idiotic yes-men in Seoul. I am going to propose that we get together and make the United Nations Command truly what it is supposed to be rather than a cover-up for what really amounts to an American Command. [. . .] It is time, I think, that they stopped acting as though they were here as an occupational army and that they got rid of their condescension. (376) In the novel, South Korea redefines the geopolitical order, asserting its independence and autonomy and ending its subordination to the United States. Here, then, is an articulation of the final project of the novel, a rescripting of Korean history that will finally end Korea’s history of colonization. Yet, this project cannot be conceived merely as a revolution against a corrupt postcolonial government and the neocolonial influences of the United States. The ambitions of The Innocent can only be understood when placed in the context of the enduring legacy of Japanese colonization, with attention paid to the profound continuities that Kim’s novels draw between colonial and postcolonial conditions in Korea. A 1966 article that Richard Kim wrote in The Atlantic Monthly suggests that South Korea’s postcolonial government simply perpetuates the exploitative patterns of colonial rule. The article recounts Kim’s return to South Korea in 1965, during a period of political tension shortly before South Korea controversially normalized relations with Japan. Kim juxtaposes his frustrations regarding the South Korean government with his recollections about “the last days of the Japanese empire” (“O” 106). As Kim puts it, “The Japanese colonial rule with its brutal, iron-fisted policies for nearly forty years helped Koreans turn suspicion and mistrust of Japanese and fellow Koreans into a nationalistic virtue and patriotic duty” (108). The article highlights the reported opinions of many Koreans who feared that the treaty would lead to “Japanese economic imperialism” (111) and an “economic invasion” by Japan. Some members of the political opposition party claim that President Park’s government is “selling out the country to the Japanese” (109). Park, who served in the Japanese military, argues: “These politicians are simply trying to capitalize on whatever uneasy feelings our people may still have about Japan” (111). Kim’s article, written two years after the publication of The Martyred and two years before the publication of The Innocent, speaks to the lingering effects of Japanese imperialism and the extent to which that legacy continued to shape South Korean political discourse. Korea’s colonial and postcolonial history is inextricably tied to Japan’s own colonial past.8 Both nations were relatively isolated from the West until the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 1850s, Western nations subjected Japan to a series of exploitative treaties that drastically circumscribed its sovereignty. Japan modernized quickly and began to acquire its own colonial territories through victories in wars against China (1895) and Russia (1905). By the turn of the twentieth century, Japan was able to assert its own status as an imperial power on par with the powerful Western nations. Korea remained relatively free from outside intervention until it was “opened” by Japan in 1876, under conditions strikingly similar to Japan’s own “opening” at the hands of the United States twenty-three years earlier. Over the next few decades, Japan consolidated its power in Korea until it formally annexed Korea as a colony in 1910. Japan brutally suppressed dissent in its colonies and pursued cultural policies to encourage the assimilation of its colonial subjects into the empire, such as Japanese language training, forced name changes (kaiseimei), and the promulgation of the Japanese official religion (Shintō).9 Japan’s coercive colonial apparatus and its educational institutions and cultural policies were deeply linked, even contiguous, instruments of control. The cultural violence perpetuated by Japan through its language policies, its bald attempts to indoctrinate colonized youth, and its restriction of native cultural practices was matched by the extremes of physical violence perpetrated by its coercive institutions, from the brutality of the Japanese military to the frequent use of torture by Japanese civil authorities.10 Japan’s control over Korea ended only with its unconditional surrender to the Allied powers in 1945. Alexis Dudden traces the key role that the performative power of diplomatic discourse played in the Japanese colonization of Korea. Whereas Japan succeeded in defining itself as a sovereign imperialist power, Korea, with the consent of the international community, was rendered diplomatically invisible (4). As Dudden explains, Japan sought to control discourse on the international level and more locally in its colonies, employing “what can only be described as the self-conscious language of colonial power” in an effort to “set the terms for any discussion of its policies in Korea that might arise” (20). Members of the Korean resistance sought to define themselves in turn as internationally legitimate, intelligible, and sovereign subjects. Japanese colonial discourse countered these efforts through a “larger policy of lexically demeaning Korean resistance” (87). Japanese and Koreans were engaged in a self-conscious contest over the representation of the relationship between the Japanese colonizer and the Korean colonized. For both parties, the power to control the representation of Japan’s colonization of Korea was a key component of their efforts to assert their authority over the Korean peninsula. Lost Names takes as its subject precisely the conditions of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. Lost Names presents itself as a quasi-autobiographical memoir, depicting the boyhood experiences of its narrator, pointedly unnamed, as he grows up in colonized Korea during the 1930s and 1940s. Kim addresses in his “Author’s Note” the “question of its genre”: I wrote the book as a work of fiction—and there is no question that it is fiction if one examines its literary techniques. But most readers seem to view it as an autobiography, a memoir. In short, they seem to accept that the young boy, the first-person narrator, is the author himself and that Lost Names is therefore a “real” story. Perhaps I should have included a disclaimer: all the characters and events described in this book are real, but everything else is fiction . . . (197-98) Lost Names is therefore ambiguously but productively situated between what Kim calls “pure ‘fiction’” and “pure ‘nonfiction’ autobiography or memoir” (198). The novel itself is presented as a series of seven “scenes” that touch on crucial moments in the narrator’s childhood, from the age of one to the age of thirteen and spanning the years from 1933 to 1945. Lost Names opens with the parents’ flight from Korea into Manchuria during the narrator’s infancy and ends on the day of the Japanese Emperor’s radio broadcast announcing the unconditional surrender of Japan, which effectively ended World War II. In Lost Names, the young narrator laments that Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule stemmed not from Korea’s own efforts but from Japan’s defeat at the Allied hands in 1945 (182). The boy’s father agrees: “We didn’t earn it ourselves. You are right. Our liberation is a gift, so to speak, and not something that we have fought for and won. That bothers me, too, son” (184). The narrator and his father express the central problem of the novel: Korea’s “gifted” liberation and the historical absence of large-scale armed insurrection within Korea against Japanese rule. One project of the novel is to construct such an insurrection retrospectively through literary means. Lost Names stresses the idea of the historical as a tool for controlling perception and representation. As the narrator’s father puts it, “The Japanese had taken over the country and their control was too entrenched and too strong to resist, but, above anything else, by then, the so-called international political pattern had come to accept Japan’s occupation of our country as an established fact—already historical” (185; emphasis added). The performative power of the retrospective assessment is precisely what is at stake for the characters in Lost Names and for the narrative itself. The novel attempts to dislodge that sense of the givenness of the Japanese colonization of Korea while, at the same time, generating and legitimizing alternative histories that position Korea as empowered and self-determined. The novel’s presentation of itself as something akin to an historical record may be taken more as an ambition than an actuality—the desire for the work of fiction to be read as a nonfictional account of past reality, altering the perception of past events in the process of recounting them. The novel begins with a conversation between the narrator and his mother about an event that occurred years earlier when the narrator was an infant. In this way, the novel dramatizes its retrospective viewpoint: the events that occur in this chapter and others have already taken place, firmly established “thirty some years” in the narrator’s past (21). At the same time, however, the narration is conveyed in the present tense: the present tense (“I see”) (24) and the present progressive (“I am seeing”) (172) cast the events as being in progress, undecided, and subject to change. This productive temporal blurring of past and present emphasizes the authoritative status of the narration, its decidedness, and also its generative potential, its openendedness. Similarly, when the narrator marks a shift in his narration—“I can see . . . I am seeing” (172)—he makes visible the logic of the narration, which asserts at the level of the sentence its capacity to transform the potential into the actual. Lost Names presents Korean resistance to Japanese rule in the same manner, as the realization of a hidden potential. The novel constructs a generalized Korean resistance indirectly, not through the bald depiction of an immediately robust resistance movement but through the gradual, gestural invocation of a latent network of resistance that finally mobilizes at the novel’s conclusion. Moments of open, direct resistance described at the beginning of the novel (8, 12) are linked to hints of resistance scattered throughout the rest of the narrative to suggest a movement that has gone deeply underground. The narrator suggests: “My father knows something about bombs, I suspect, although not too much about aerial bombs. . . .” (121). Ellipses feature regularly throughout the novel, reinforcing the notion that all is not being said. The narrative constructs a Korean resistance obliquely and through intimation, creating the impression that it absolutely exists but cannot be detected precisely because it must remain hidden. Isolated acts of defiance in the novel stand in for the larger referent of the hidden resistance movement. At one point, the narrator and his classmates “have been made to play” the parts of Japanese soldiers in a celebration of “the Crown Prince’s birthday” (117). Every character in the novel is clear about the metaphorical stakes of this production, and the narrator enlists the other students in a “collaborat[ion]” to sabotage the performance (140). The young narrator refuses to make a speech in praise of the Japanese Crown Prince. He stands silently on the stage, displaying his body, bruised and battered from his beating at the hands of his Japanese teacher (140-42). The spectacle of the suffering boy mutely challenges the authority of the Japanese-run school. Here, resistance at the performance of the play becomes the performance of a play resistance, a metaphorical resistance that stands in for the colonial resistance it implicitly invokes. This dramatic display of resistance on a smaller scale prefigures the climactic confrontation at the novel’s end. The final chapter of Lost Names, titled “In the Making of History—Together,” outlines a confrontation between the Korean townspeople and the Japanese colonial police that follows the Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s declaration of unconditional surrender. The narrative concludes on a triumphant note, as the village overthrows the local Japanese authorities. As the youthful narrator insists, both his village and the fictionalized memoir itself “make history” through this localized rebellion, metaphorically invoking a violent Korean war for colonial independence that never historically took place. The title of Kim’s final chapter is telling, for Lost Names is not merely about Korean history but about the making and shaping of that history. In the end, the text manifests the potential for resistance that it has metaphorically intimated throughout, culminating in a militarily pointless, but symbolically crucial, battle to liberate the town. The text unabashedly suggests that the battle is necessary to reassert Korean manhood after the Japanese occupation, linking masculinity, violence, and national sovereignty. Characters become transformed in the wake of the Japanese emperor’s declaration of surrender. The town is immediately militarized, as if a latent military structure needed only a spark to emerge. “[A] battle plan is drawn up” (171), and military jargon punctuates the narration: “I am thinking of organizing our farmers. We must post sentries. [. . .] We must set up a system of relaying information. [. . .] We must post lookouts [. . .] and we should also mobilize the townspeople and all the young men in the neighboring villages, and . . .” (176). Groups of men become “deployments” (192) and “detachments” (188); food becomes “rations” (188); and even the weather becomes militarized, “with the roll of thunder drumming and flashes of lightning bayoneting out of billowy black rain clouds” (160; emphasis added). The coordinated action of the Korean characters is expressed as a “take-over” (178, 187, 192), a seizure of governmental control that finally enacts the wished-for war for independence. The climactic moment of the confrontation is carefully staged. The Japanese chief of police salutes and ceremoniously hands “his gleaming saber” to the narrator’s father (194). The father then turns to the amassed crowd and declares: “Everyone! Everyone! [. . .] I have now taken over the police station in behalf of our town! [. . .] I have also taken over all the public offices and facilities and the properties of the Japanese Empire in our town. [. . .] In behalf of the committee for self-rule and public safety, I now declare our town liberated!” [. . .] [T]hen, someone strikes a drum, and, with the BOOM-BOOM, comes a dizzying pandemonium—deafening cheers and roaring shouts and wild cries, gongs crashing, cymbals jangling, drums rolling and torches waving, the whole world tumbling and shaking and exploding. (194-95) In the novel, the father’s redeclaration of liberation has a performative impact equal to that of Hirohito’s declaration of surrender. The father’s words set off a scene of “pandemonium,” replete with explosions, shaking, tumbling, and great booms, as if to figure the great battle that has ultimately been deferred by the peaceful surrender of the Japanese police. The narrator nevertheless declares: “Today, this night, the town is at last OURS. Today, this night, I join the ranks of men in the making of history—together” (195). This last statement is doubly true, for just as the characters in Kim’s novel are “making history,” so, too, is the author “making history” through this careful refiguration of the moment of Korean liberation. Lost Names is an extended meditation on the Korean experience of the history of Japanese colonization—a meditation that also intervenes in that history while thematizing the idea of the historical itself. The novel gestures toward a clandestine Korean resistance that is precisely not seen. Resistance then becomes open, active, and effective, achieving literarily what otherwise never occurred: a successful full-scale armed rebellion against Japanese rule. By the end of the novel, even the language of the narration has been conscripted into service. Generically, the narration takes up the conventions of the war novel, much like its characters take up arms against their Japanese oppressors. If the first part of Lost Names is about the names that the Koreans have lost and the success of the Japanese colonizers in their efforts to control expression and dominate the narrative, then its conclusion concerns the novel’s seizure of the tools of narration, in parallel with the seizure of the weapons of open militant resistance by the Korean characters. The novel imaginatively generates effective Korean resistance through not only the depiction of a militant revolution at the novel’s conclusion but also the assertion of Korean narrative control—the power to depict, narrate, and represent. These imaginative depictions in Kim’s novels frequently rely on gendered and sexualized imagery. As Anne McClintock, Edward Said, and many others have argued, the relationship between colonizer and colonized has often been figured as a sexualized encounter between a dominant man and submissive woman (McClintock 14; Said 5-6). Jodi Kim and Naoko Shibusawa discuss how gendered representations can be used to “domesticat[e] a former enemy nation by demilitarizing and feminizing it” (J. Kim 99). According to Shibusawa, “the notion of the geisha . . . was central to postwar America’s vision of Japan” (12). In this post-Pacific War and Cold War climate, the image of the pleasing and meek female figure helped to reconstruct US-Japanese geopolitical relations in the minds of US inhabitants and “transform[ed] the Japanese enemy into an acceptable ally” (9). These sexualized tropes have often characterized Orientalist depictions of relations between the West and Asia. Historically, the discourse surrounding Japanese and Korean colonial relations has mirrored this gendering of colonial discourse, with Japan in the masculine role and Korea in the feminine role. Richard Kim’s novels, however, exploit Western Orientalist tropes about a submissive, feminized Asia and label these tropes as specifically Japanese in character, rather than Korean or Asian. Kim’s novels do not challenge the Orientalist feminization of Asia nor do they undermine sexist masculine/feminine binaries that associate masculinity with dominance and femininity with submission. Rather, they seize these tools of colonial discourse and redeploy them to challenge Japanese colonial authority and change the image of Korea. The novels position Korea alongside the West as an empowered, independent, and masculine actor, in contrast to a more effete Japan, thereby reimagining Japanese and Korean colonial history and asserting Korean sovereignty. In this way, Kim’s novels arguably reinforce Orientalist tropes and perpetuate sexist binaries. At a crucial point in The Innocent, the narrator, Major Lee, is sent to Japan and remains there for the duration of the coup under the care of the Americans. The majority of Lee’s stay in Japan is set in the mountain resort region of Hakone. The characters describe the space as an American “hideaway” (233), with Colonel McKay as its master. Unlike Korea, Japan is presented as an Americanized, almost colonized territory (229). The narrator draws a sharp contrast between Korea and Japan along gendered lines: What was I doing here—immersed deeply in the perfumed water, in a Japanese mountain retreat, in Colonel McKay’s “castle to get away from it all,” in the heart of the Hakone, waited on by a Japanese maidservant, while back in the dark, muddy, slushy, stench-filled battlefront of Korea’s rocky, rugged, barren hills my comrades in life and death were desperately diagnosing the grave ills of the crippled nation and her stricken people. (235; emphasis added) The gendered contrast between an indolent Japan and a “rugged” Korea in this passage is unmistakable. Lee’s Korean “comrades in life and death” embody precisely those “barbarian virtues,” as Theodore Roosevelt called them, that typify vigorous nations and their agents.11 Japan, by contrast, is characterized by the bewitching, intoxicating pull of the Orient, which threatens, in accordance with the familiar trope, to soften and effeminize. The languorous setting refigures Japan as a space of sensual enervation. The narrator recounts: “I, with a sigh, abandoned myself to a drowsy, dreamy, soft sensation of my weightless body drowning and floating in the warm, velvety, all-embracing, supple, scented water . . .” (236). This representation of the Orient as a languid, feminized space is figured as specifically Japanese, rather than Korean or more generally Asian. In this way, the novel exploits Orientalist tropes to redefine the relative positions of the two nations through the assignment of stereotypical gender positions. Lost Names similarly constructs a Korean resistance that is assiduously coded as masculine and manly, eliding the role of Korean women and drawing sharp contrasts with Japanese occupiers who are coded as effeminate and ineffectual. It is no accident that the narrator claims to “join the ranks of men in the making of history—together” (195), for women are largely written out of this resistance narrative. The novel depicts men working with men and Korean men working against, and suffering at the hands of, Japanese men. The vision that remains is of a strong and masculine nation held down by the collective, systematized power of a more effete colonial intruder. Here again, Kim’s novels are invested in stereotypical associations of manhood with independence, power, and autonomy and focus intensively on physical and military violence as the means through which one can assert one’s sovereignty and strength. An encounter between the young narrator and his Japanese gym teacher exemplifies these specific gender dynamics. The teacher viciously beats the narrator for a perceived act of defiance: And suddenly—with a whish—the bamboo sword smashes my bottom, jolting me with a numbing blow that instantly shoots thousands of sharp needles of pain through my body, snapping it into an arch, flinging my head backward. My body is shaking, and my knees trembling, and I can’t control my body. I press my lips tight and close my eyes with all my strength, but I can’t shut the tears in. I taste the salty tears on my lips, but I make no sound. The bamboo sword is slashing into my flesh, onto my legs, my bottom, my back, each blow contorting my body and blinding me for a second. [. . .] I can take it, I can take it, I think. (133-34) The novel presents the violent contact between the teacher’s “sword” and the narrator’s bared “bottom” in graphic terms that emphasize both the physical sensations of the assault and the narrator’s gritty endurance of the pain. The narrator perceives his body as “alive and pulsating” and his “masochistic euphoria” transforms into a violent struggle and a refusal to continue to be assaulted: And, now, every sensation within me is turning, with each blow, into a boundless contempt, and my contempt is burning into hatred, a hatred fierce and immense—until, screaming, I am bending down, pulling up my pants, and the bamboo sword is striking me everywhere, on my back, my neck, my head—and I am crouching down, buckling my belt, and, now standing up, screaming and screaming, blinded by my hatred and rage, I lunge at the man, my head smashing into his underbelly, my fists punching into his groin. (134) This scene depicts a moment of violence and abjection that is also unmistakably sexualized, and the boy resists by targeting the teacher’s “underbelly” and “groin.” Here, the narrator refuses his initial position as a sexualized, martyr-like object of violence and transforms himself into resistant subject. This transformation from subjection to revolt is repeated not only in the final battle of Lost Names but several times in The Innocent, including four strikingly similar scenes of torture and resistance that rehearse and ultimately refigure the scene of colonial violence (26-27, 33-35, 85-87, 162-67). Characterized by physical debasement and bodily failure, each iteration marks increasingly a transition from capitulation to physical revolt, prefiguring the climactic military coup that brings an end to Korea’s enduring colonial oppression. The third and fourth iterations are similar scenes of violence involving Colonel Min. In the third scene, Colonel Min is captured by the Japanese army and beaten badly before he kills his Japanese tormentor and escapes to safety (81-87). The text maintains the core image of the Korean’s “battered, bleeding, aching body” (86) but depicts the physical revolt and overthrow of the colonial oppressor. The final scene of the four occurs in Soviet-controlled North Korea immediately after the Japanese surrender. The scene depicts Colonel Min’s interrogation at the hands of two Russian officers and a “North Korean major, [Min’s] former comrade in arms and now [his] captor.” The Russians occupy the former plantation home of a wealthy Japanese man. Min is interrogated in the basement while Russian officers carouse upstairs: “[T]he phonograph was blasting out some old Japanese war songs and the Russians were bellowing out, imitating the songs, laughing and roaring.” The imitative singing of the Russians parodies the Japanese war songs but also suggests that the Russians follow in the footsteps of the Japanese. The North Korean major begins whipping Min as the Russians watch. Min is enraged at his humiliation but realizes that the major’s violence signals a kind of self-loathing regarding the North Korean’s own subservient position under Soviet command (164). The narrative frames this encounter in precisely these psychological terms, such that the whipping becomes a spectacle of mutual debasement linked to the continuation of Korea’s colonial condition, with Russians in the role of the Japanese. Min seizes the whip from the North Korean and begins whipping him: “[I]t was then that we, both of us, saw that the Russians, the Russian major, the garrison commander, and the big lieutenant—they were laughing and laughing and laughing [. . .] and suddenly, I thought I could hear the roaring laughter and the old Japanese war songs and the tinkling and shattering of the glasses upstairs” (165). Min and the North Korean major seem then to recall their shared history of colonial subjugation, and they revolt against the Russians. Min whips and shoots the Russian lieutenant while the North Korean strangles the Russian major (165-66). The two Koreans break free from the garrison, shooting the guards and grabbing their machine guns as part of their escape (167). What began as a scene of torture and interrogation radically transforms into a scene of violent, militarized revolt, with Koreans reuniting to overthrow their foreign oppressors. The text refigures the scene of colonial violence, constructing a fantasy of revolution and empowerment that mirrors the larger narrative of coordinated, militant resistance and liberation entailed by the coup. The legacy of colonialism is thus a given in The Innocent. The text emphasizes not only the continuities of foreign oppression, where communists perpetuate Japan’s brutal colonial legacy, but also the continuities between Japanese colonialism and a South Korean government depicted as hopelessly “corrupt” (23). Min insists to a South Korean general that the coup is an act of liberation: “You seem to think that we are going to occupy the country as if we were at war with an enemy in a foreign land” (58). Min invokes the language of colonization but insists that the conspirators are not occupiers but liberators. This rhetoric positions the existing government, not the coup, as usurpers and foreign oppressors from whom the nation must be freed. In The Innocent, textual difficulty and the figure of the report function in ways similar to the strategies of indirection and genre blending in Lost Names—that is, as literary strategies that allow the novel to complete the project of reimagining Korea’s colonial history. Readers of The Innocent may struggle to track the novel’s various characters, intrigues, and plots. According to Richard M. Elman in The New York Times Book Review, the novel involves “a general confusion of names, events, deeds and personalities which even [Kim’s] characters seem to share” (4). Beyond the core group of conspirators, the novel presents a large cast of military officers from several different factions, all thinly developed. The characters enact a series of moves, countermoves, “countercoup[s]” (R. Kim, Innocent 284), and hostage-taking, involving secret messages, bribes, escape plans, “betrayal from all sides” (279), and the revelation that two participants in the coup are in fact secret communist “superagent[s]” (276). The plot twists often strain credulity, yet this textual difficulty is arguably deliberate and strategic. As Peter Brooks shows, “plot” has multiple meanings, and Kim’s novel exploits the potential conflation of these overlapping meanings. Brooks brings together four senses of the English word plot—a physical stretch of land, a “diagram” that demarcates physical space, a plot in the literary sense, and a “secret plan to accomplish a hostile or illegal purpose [or] scheme” (11-12). These aspects of plotting can overlap: literary plots may function as “secret plan[s]” to “realiz[e]” desired outcomes that contradict the established order in their fictional worlds (12), thereby redefining physical spaces and creating new boundaries. The reader’s difficulty following the complex covert action is thus a strategic aspect of the novel. The narrative, like the conspiracy itself, constructs a highly coordinated, hidden organization. These covert forces operate beyond one’s easy grasp and are therefore also empowered to escape identification, external manipulation, and suppression—by either the readers of the Innocent or the novel itself. The novel effectively stages its own inability to track the covert, guerrilla movements of the characters it has created, as a means to figure the existence of elements in the text that are resistant to narrative control—independent actors operating outside of the centralized, scripting authority of the text.12 Kim’s characters have no existence outside of the novel, yet the novel dramatizes its limited ability to “control” its own creations to symbolize a resistance to the totalizing power of the novel and, figuratively, the totalizing power of the colonizer. Here, the figuratively imperialistic relations between the controlling narrator and the subordinated, penetrable, and narratable subjects of the text are disrupted, creating a performance of resistance to controlling authority at the level of form. Gerald Prince outlines several formal narrative strategies one would expect to find in a postcolonial narrative. On the one hand, postcolonial texts thematize hybridity, incompleteness, partiality, and division, in ways familiar to scholars of minority literature in the United States (375-76). These texts disrupt the centralized authority of conventional narration, showing how dominant modes of representation cannot adequately represent the subjectivity of the colonized. Through their very form, postcolonial texts undermine narrative authority, symbolically enacting a resistance to dominant forces and colonial authority. On the other hand, these works also assert for themselves the “linguistic power” to represent the very groups that conventional narratives have marginalized or misrepresented (374). In this way, postcolonial works perform a seizure of narrative power akin to the seizure of political power, asserting a sovereign authority uninhibited by outside influence or control. Kim’s novels combine these two postcolonial impulses—the disruption of power and the seizure of power—working in two distinct but interrelated ways to assert effective Korean resistance to outside controlling authority and to claim for those who have previously only been scripted the power to narrate their place in the world. The plots of Kim’s novels follow the trajectory of a successful plot to overthrow an established authority: the covert forces of resistance initially disrupt existing authority and then claim that authority for themselves. In The Innocent, plots of novels, plots of resistance fighters, and plots of land become conflated, working in concert to demarcate contested territories in terms dictated by Koreans rather than by outside forces. The plot of The Innocent resembles the plots of its Korean conspirators—supplanting the existing power structure with an alternate shadow structure to alter prevailing historical perceptions. The textual difficulty of The Innocent frustrates a centralized, surveilling authority and works against dominant modes of perceiving and representing, with the goal to redraw boundaries and transform the geopolitical order. Here, the logic of The Innocent parallels the logic of Lost Names. Both texts carefully construct an effective hidden resistance that emerges to overthrow its oppressors and claim power and control. Through the idea of the report, Richard Kim also exploits what Brooks calls “the necessary retrospectivity of narrative” (22). According to Brooks, “narrative ever, and inevitably . . . presents itself as a repetition and rehearsal . . . of what has already happened. . . . [T]he claim to repeat in fact produces the event presented as prior” (25). Brooks identifies the power of the retrospective glance to reshape or even create what has presumably come before it. By claiming only to repeat past events, the report presents itself as the mere rehearsal of an established fact, disavowing its very real scripting power. The report’s construction of an event as prior and the disavowal of the report’s productive power thus doubly emphasize the decidedness of the depicted event, which is essential in a work that seeks to rewrite a country’s colonial past. The epistemological status of these reports is crucial in The Innocent. As Brooks explains, “this repetition and rehearsal is precisely how readers verify what did in fact happen in the world of the text” (25). There is no other way for readers to access the events of a novel except through the reporting of the narration. Kim’s novel exploits this fact by embedding reports within reports, such that even characters in the novel receive their information secondhand. The characters in the novel stand in for the readers themselves, processing the key developments of the text as events that have already been decided, that are already a part of the determined history of the textual world. The sense of decidedness and truthfulness conveyed by these retrospective reconstructions can therefore influence the novel’s readers and its characters to accept the novel’s representations as factual and accurate. In fact, this narrative strategy is arguably central to the ambitions of a postcolonial text that “writes back.” Like other authors who wish to write back, Richard Kim both rewrites the narrative and asserts his power to narrate. He shows himself as subtly but firmly seizing the power to forge history. Kim’s use of reports to communicate plot points is a fundamental characteristic of the novel’s form. No story in The Innocent is ever unmediated. The climactic events of the novel are communicated via a Japanese newspaper report, an “extra edition [. . .] devoted entirely to the coup in Korea” (261). The report takes up several pages in the novel, recounting the Korean revolution as a triumphant achievement of planning and execution: “[T]he plan for occupying the capital was a model of military precision and a marvel of brilliant tactics and foresight [involving] meticulous care and astounding precision [and demonstrating] a brilliant clockwork efficiency and swiftness. [. . .] [T]he plan of operations had been conceived down to every minute detail” (266-67). This glowing assertion of the conspirators’ military prowess completes the fantasy of military revolution imagined by the text, offering precisely the tactical coordination and overwhelming military force that was absent during the colonial period and World War II. The article reports: “[T]he coup d’état is now a fait accompli” (267). This crucial symbolic phrasing demonstrates the importance of the reportedness of these events. Through its reporting, the coup does become an accomplished fact, as the report lends this reconceptualization of history authenticity and verisimilitude. In this way, the narrative is retrospective, yet performative. In fact, one might say that it is performative because it is retrospective, working all the more effectively to “remake” history because it purports only to record what has already happened. The Japanese extra edition notes: “[T]here have been reports that spontaneous demonstrations supporting the coup have been staged in several cities” (264), which presents a potential paradox in the form of demonstrations that are both “spontaneous” and “staged.” The novel’s performative ambitions help to resolve this apparent paradox, however, for the function of the report in The Innocent is precisely to stage what seems to be spontaneous or naturally emergent. The Innocent thus uses the same techniques as Lost Names, conflating past and present, such that a decided past is simultaneously in the process of being decided. The novel’s creative reimagination of the 1961 coup crucially constitutes a military independence, similar to that of Kim’s Lost Names, achieved forcibly through an abundance of organization, planning, and execution. Here again, Kim emphasizes the importance of military power and violence, and a stereotypically masculinized identity, in the assertion of national sovereignty and colonial independence. The Innocent attempts rhetorically to transform a military coup into a democratic revolution, yet these rhetorical acrobatics seem less contradictory if one places them in the context of an enduring colonial legacy. The Innocent demonstrates both Kim’s continued preoccupation with Korea’s colonial past and his exploitation of narrative form in an attempt to reconstruct the past and the present. The novel’s distinctive narrative techniques—involving plotting, textual difficulty, and the report—are linked through a narrative progression from one to the other: the untraceable resistance becomes the already accomplished takeover of power. Each technique points toward the actual war in which the protagonists seize control. The reader never sees this war, however, for the achievement of independence occurs entirely offstage. The Innocent thus employs the same strategies of indirectness as Lost Names and The Martyred. In Lost Names, narrative techniques of indirection and the shift into conventions of the war novel reframe the closing scene as a symbolic battle without a battle, signaling Korea’s overthrow of its Japanese colonizers. The Martyred is similarly a war novel without a war, transforming the Korean War into a clandestine contest of intrigue and propaganda waged by South Korean intelligence operatives. While The Martyred never deeply engages with Japanese imperialism, the novel’s place in Kim’s persistent project to reframe Korea’s past becomes clearer once one recognizes the importance of Japan to Lost Names and The Innocent. The subtly transformative historical repositioning found in all of Kim’s novels speaks to their central ideological message: the end of Korea’s imperial subjugation and the assertion of a powerful, organized, and independent Korea. To varying degrees, all three of Kim’s novels engage with the legacy of Korea’s imperial subjugation, particularly its colonization by Japan. Exploring the impact of Japanese imperialism on Asian American literature contributes to a more complete understanding of the complex discursive context in which Asian American works are immersed. By examining Japanese empire, one also disrupts habitual patterns of reading imperial domination, where one presumes the colonizer to be white and Western and the colonized to be nonwhite and from outside the West. Japanese imperialism also foregrounds the cultural and national divides within the formation Asian American—divides which sometimes exist in tension with the collective identity and political coalition of Asian Americans. Making visible these divides also draws attention to power differentials among the diverse Asian American nationalities of origin that might otherwise remain unaddressed in transnational readings.13 The project facing scholars now is to remap Asian American studies yet again, honoring and building on the existing transnational scholarship in ways that expand and ground the field’s interpretive and representational horizons. One must foreground intra-Asian locations and contexts, beyond a narrow focus on US contexts, juxtaposing Kim’s work with Japan’s aggressive attempts—during its colonial period and after—to control the terms under which its colonial project is understood. Kim’s work exploits the narrator’s power to dictate the terms of an encounter in the act of narrating it as a formal feature through which the conditions of colonial domination are produced and contested. The novels show the importance of a hybrid approach to Asian American transnational studies that explores the intersection of US-focused traditional Asian American studies and Asian studies. This approach makes visible often overlooked intra-Asian tensions and decenters the United States as a necessary and inevitable geographical point of orientation. This altered transnational perspective opens up further avenues of interpretation for Asian American literature. One might revisit previously neglected texts such as Younghill Kang’s The Grass Roof (1931), one of the first Korean American novels, which is set entirely in Korea and depicts life under Japanese rule. One might also reexamine more familiar texts, such as Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters (1990), through the history of Japanese imperialism in the Philippines. Other transnational texts, such as novels by Chang-rae Lee and Shirley Geok-lin Lim, can also be reread in this way. Exploring these fresh critical terrains will contribute to the ongoing transformation in American studies that the transnational turn has initiated, expanding the critical conversation to register the complex global network of influences that structure American studies and US cultural production. Footnotes 1. See Sau-ling C. Wong and Shirley Geok-lin Lim et al. For important discussion of the debate, see Kandice Chuh (“Of Hemispheres”) and Lingyan Yang on the need to coordinate “Asian American” and “postcolonial Asian diasporic” contexts when “theorizing Asian America” (Yang 141). For scholarship that works to decenter the United States within transnational Asian American studies, see Kandice Chuh (Imagine) and Jinqi Ling. See also more recent engagements with the transpacific as a dynamic and arguably polycentric transnational network of flows and spaces, including Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyen, Yuan Shu and Donald E. Pease, and Erin Suzuki. 2. My thanks to an anonymous reviewer and to my colleague Andrew Sargent who rearticulated the essay’s arguments in these terms. 3. For other Asian American authors with a transnational focus beyond the borders of the United States, see Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jessica Hagedorn, Karen Tei Yamashita, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Ha Jin, Younghill Kang, and Chang-rae Lee, among others. 4. For biographical details about Richard E. Kim and for a detailed publication and reception history of his major works, see Susan Choi, Heinz Insu Fenkl, and Jae-Nam Han. 5. See Choi, Sung-Ae Lee, Jung In Kang, Keith Lawrence, Robert Goar, Gerald Haslam, and Mario Valdés. 6. For detailed accounts of the Korean War and its origins, see Bruce Cumings and William Stueck. In a personal account about the Korean War and Vietnam War, Colonel Harry Summers, Jr. identifies a US-centric bias in American perceptions of the wars: American ethnocentrism is suggested by the conventional wisdom accepted by [American] supporters and protesters of the war alike: the wars in Korea and Vietnam were “our” wars. In both cases, America is seen as the prime protagonist, and China, officially at least, as the main adversary. . . . In actuality, during both wars the United States was merely a partner and, in human terms, a junior partner at that. (173) For a discussion of Korean perspectives on the Korean War, see Dong-choon Kim. According to Kim, “official South Korean historiographic approaches to the Korean War” (iv) and many “foreign scholars” overemphasize the broader, international context of the war. Kim’s work, by contrast, effectively decenters US-centric perspectives while foregrounding the experiences of “ordinary South Koreans” (iii) and the importance of historical factors from within Korea. In this way, Dong-choon Kim’s historiographic practice parallels Richard Kim’s fiction: both deemphasize US involvement in the war and assert the importance of Korean actions. 7. There was a long and important history of Korean resistance to Japanese colonial rule, both within and outside of Korea, as attested by the 1 March Independence Movement in 1919 and the guerrilla activities of the future ruler of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, and others. See Cumings (Korea’s 154, 160-61), Woo-keun Han (464-92), and Allan R. Millet (189-90). 8. For detailed historical accounts of Japanese imperialism, see W. G. Beasley and Ramon Myers and Mark Peattie. For histories that focus specifically on the contest over representation in Japanese colonial history, see Leo Ching and Alexis Dudden. Dudden and Cumings (Korea’s) provide useful overviews of colonial relations between Japan and Korea. 9. See Leo Ching for a detailed discussion of Japan’s efforts to reshape the culture of its colonized subjects in Taiwan and throughout its colonial empire. 10. The brutality of the Japanese military during this period is well documented. See Iris Chang (173). 11. See Matthew Frye Jacobson regarding Roosevelt’s assertion that the United States must retain a specifically manly national character. 12. This reading of the novel as staging the limits of its narrative authority owes much to D. A. Miller’s reading of omniscient narration. 13. 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The Novel and the Police . U of California P , 1988 . Millet Allan R. “The Korean War: A 50-Year Critical Historiography.” Journal of Strategic Studies , vol. 24 , no. 1 , 2001 , pp. 188 – 224 . Myers Ramon H. , Peattie Mark R. , editors. The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945 . Princeton UP , 1984 . Ong Aihwa. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality . Duke UP , 1999 . Palumbo-Liu David. Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier . Stanford UP , 1999 . Prince Gerald. “On a Postcolonial Narratology.” A Companion to Narrative Theory , edited by Phelan James , Rabinowitz Peter J. , Blackwell Publishing , 2005 , pp. 372 – 81 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Said Edward W. Orientalism . 1978. Vintage , 1994 . Shibusawa Naoko. America’s Geisha Ally: Reimagining the Japanese Enemy . 2006. Harvard UP , 2010 . Shu Yuan , Pease Donald E. , editors . American Studies as Transnational Practice: Turning toward the Transpacific . Dartmouth College P , 2015 . Stueck William. The Korean War: An International History . Princeton UP , 1995 . Summers Harry Jr. “Through American Eyes: Combat Experiences and Memories of Korea and Vietnam.” America’s Wars in Asia: A Cultural Approach to History and Memory, edited by Philip West et al., M. E. Sharpe, 1998 , pp. 172-82. Suzuki Erin. “Transpacific.” The Routledge Companion to Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature , edited by Lee Rachel C. , Routledge , 2014 , pp. 352 – 64 . Valdés Mario J. “Faith and Despair: A Comparative Study of a Narrative Theme.” Hispania , vol. 49 , no. 3 , 1966 , pp. 373 – 80 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Wong Sau-ling C. “Denationalization Reconsidered: Asian American Cultural Criticism at a Theoretical Crossroads.” Amerasia Journal , vol. 21 , no. 1-2 , 1995 , pp. 1 – 27 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Yamashita Karen Tei. Brazil-Maru . Coffee House P , 1992 . Yang Lingyan. “Theorizing Asian America: On Asian American and Postcolonial Asian Diasporic Women Intellectuals.” Journal of Asian American Studies , vol. 5 , no. 2 , 2002 , pp. 139 – 78 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States Oxford University Press

Plotting Colonial Independence: Intra-Asian Conflict in the Novels of Richard Kim

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Abstract

Abstract Over the past fifteen years, Asian American studies has experienced a resurgence of interest in pioneering Korean American author Richard E. Kim. This interest stems in part from the disciplinary shifts in the field brought about by the transnational turn. Yet Kim’s novels argue implicitly for a mode of reading Asian American literature that is not merely transnational but also intra-Asian, prompting us to rethink the geographic boundaries of Asian American literary studies to account for a history of conflict among Asian nations—specifically the history of colonial conflict between Korea and Japan. This essay takes a critical approach that combines sustained attention to the historical context of Japanese imperialism with a narratological attention to the specific formal techniques Kim employs—the figure of the report, indirect invocations of a hidden resistance, and the strategic use of gendered metaphors—to transform Japanese, Korean and US colonial history in ways that subtly reimagine Korea’s history of colonial subjugation. Kim’s novels rewrite the colonial history of East Asia, symbolically enacting the overthrow of Korea’s colonial oppressors and depicting a powerful and fully sovereign Korea. In the process, Kim’s work demonstrates the value of expanding transnational Asian American literary study beyond a narrow focus on the projection of US power abroad. This changed transnational perspective decenters the United States as a necessary and inevitable geographical point of orientation, opening up new avenues of interpretation for ethnic US literature. The novels of pioneering Korean American author Richard E. Kim require an expanded transnational reading practice that foregrounds intra-Asian geopolitical contexts rather than US-centric contexts. Careful attention to the context of Japanese imperialism and to Kim’s strategies of representation shows that Kim’s novels present a masculinized vision of national empowerment that reimagines the history of Korean colonial subjugation and positions Korea as a fully independent modern power. In this way, Kim’s work challenges Cold War-influenced perceptions of Korea that position Korea and East Asia as subordinated territories under broader US influence and control. His novels also underscore important intra-Asian tensions, often overlooked in critical discourse, that have profoundly impacted Asian American cultural production. Over the past fifteen years, Asian American studies has experienced a resurgence of interest in Richard Kim’s work, due in part to the disciplinary shifts in the field brought about by the transnational turn. Several scholars have contributed greatly to the development of transnational Asian American studies, including David Palumbo-Liu, Rachel Lee, Kandice Chuh, Aihwa Ong, Victor Bascara, Naoko Shibusawa, and Jodi Kim. The groundbreaking work in the field is perhaps Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (1996), which argues that understanding the figure of the immigrant from Asia “is fundamental to understanding the racialized foundations of both the emergence of the United States as a nation and the development of American capitalism” (ix). Lowe broadens her focus beyond US borders to include US intervention in Asia and to highlight the process by which the Asian immigrant becomes assimilated (and not assimilated) into the nation. Lowe proposes “a new political subject allegorized by the ‘immigrant’”—a subject “articulated simultaneously within both U.S. national and global frameworks” (34). Recasting Asian Americans through the figure of the immigrant has encouraged Asian Americanists to reconsider the significance of Asian contexts in the field. The transnational turn has shown how the field’s traditional focus on discrimination within the United States often draws attention away from the profound ways that US actions involving Asia have shaped the lives and the public perception of Asian Americans in US culture. The field’s expanded focus now embraces works set entirely in Asia, and Asian Americanists are considering how those works also register the political, military, economic, and cultural power of the United States. The turn to the transnational has prompted a debate among scholars over the centrality of the United States in Asian American studies.1 Even as transnationalist scholars extend their view beyond the borders of the United States, they have often focused almost exclusively on the projection of US power abroad. Scholars must build on the existing scholarship, however, by expanding transnational Asian American literary study beyond the predominantly US-centric bounds of Asian American studies to focus on important intra-Asian contexts. Rather than adopting a US-centric perspective, or a binary approach that perceives the transnational as an interaction between center and periphery, scholars must approach the transnational context of Asian American literature as a fundamentally polycentric product of interactions between and among diverse Asian geopolitical entities. One must balance the panethnic emphasis of Asian American studies with increased attention to the intra-Asian pressures that have been a central focus within the field of Asian studies.2 Exploring and developing the intersection of Asian American studies and Asian area studies allows us to reframe transnational Asian American studies as a more triangulated, polycentric network of influences in which the United States is important but not always and automatically central. One figure who illustrates the value of this newly emerging area of Asian American literary scholarship is the Korean American novelist Richard E. Kim.3 Kim was born in South Korea in 1932, grew up during the Japanese occupation, and served in the South Korean military during the Korean War as a US military liaison. He immigrated to the United States following the war and attended several American universities before writing his three major works: The Martyred (1964), The Innocent (1968), and Lost Names: Scenes from a Korean Boyhood (1970). Kim continued to work as a writer and academic, primarily in the United States, until his death in 2009.4 All three of Kim’s major fictional works are set entirely in East Asia. The Martyred takes place during the Korean War (1950-53), and its sequel, The Innocent, features the same narrator and depicts a military coup in South Korea some years after the Korean War. Lee’s third work, Lost Names, takes place from 1932 to 1945 and presents a series of brief “scenes” narrated by an unnamed Korean boy during the Japanese occupation. Collectively, the books recount three successive struggles on Korean soil: against the Japanese, between North and South Korea, and between military and political factions in South Korea. Kim is therefore a crucial figure for exploring the shifting concerns of Asian American studies today. Although Kim was a best-selling author in the 1960s, he received comparatively little critical and popular attention until quite recently. Kim’s 1970 semiautobiographical novel Lost Names only returned to print in 1998, and the limited scholarship on Kim has largely alternated between two interpretive approaches: treating Kim’s work either as an authentic record of conditions in Korea or as a humanistic expression of universal truths and experiences.5 Neither of these approaches recognizes the extent to which Kim’s novels self-consciously employ sophisticated literary strategies that reimagine Korea’s colonial and postcolonial history and challenge more conventional understandings of Korea’s position in East Asia and the world. For example, Kim’s literary revisions of history target “history” both in terms of the historical fact of Korea’s colonial subjugation by Japan and the historical perception that it continued to be subordinated to the United States even after its colonial liberation. In 2011, however, Penguin reissued The Martyred, and recent articles by Steven Belletto and Christine Hong highlight the 1964 novel as an important Cold War text, inaugurating a new phase of critical interpretation. These authors amply demonstrate how the novel critically engages with the complex historical context of the Korean War, which involves multiple parties—including North and South Korea, the United States and its allies, China, and the Soviet Union—and deeply reflects the broader framework of the emerging Cold War, the histories of conflict among nations within the region, and World War II.6 My analysis of The Martyred focuses more narrowly on two key aspects of the novel: first, its obsession with the malleability of historical memory and the manipulation of representation to achieve political effects; and second, the extent to which The Martyred presents a historical perspective that differs from dominant US understandings of the conflict. Kim reimagines the Korean War as waged almost exclusively by Koreans, where US involvement is distinctly and pointedly muted, to recast the dynamics between South Korea and the United States as a partnership of equal sovereign states. As Belletto and Hong have shown, Kim’s fiction engages with prevailing narratives of Korean history at a metacritical level. Belletto argues that The Martyred constitutes a “meta-engagement . . . with the Cold War rhetorical frame that shift[s] the meaning of the war away from US claims about it” (54-55). The novel challenges US-generated, hegemonic representations of the Korean War, which “viewed” Korea “only as a proxy” (53) within a “US-centered Cold War frame” (58). Hong writes: “Kim’s self-reflexive account of the Korean War . . . posits the first hot war of the Cold War as a strategic fiction and locates its ongoing contestation on discursive terrain” (142). Hong argues that The Martyred’s “metafictional account” of wartime intelligence activities “highlights the strategic value of fiction in the ideological remapping of terrain deemed, in the novel’s language, ‘Red’” (146). The Martyred makes the politics of representing the Korean War a central theme. In the process, it both asserts Korean agency and critiques US-centric narratives about the Korean War. Yet, Kim’s novels also prompt us to rethink the geographic boundaries of Asian American literary studies to account for a history of conflict among Asian nations—specifically the history of colonial conflict between Korea and Japan. Kim’s three novels involve different time periods, plots, and antagonists. Viewing the novels through the lens of Japanese colonization, however, reveals profound continuities in subject matter and strategies of representation. Kim’s fictional works—particularly his second and third novels—collectively rewrite Korea’s legacy of colonial subjugation. First, The Martyred strategically transforms the Korean War into a predominantly Korean conflict independent of US influence even as it foregrounds the importance of controlling the representation of historical events. Kim’s second novel, The Innocent, similarly renarrates the history of postcolonial Korea to challenge Korea’s subordinate position relative to the United States. Kim’s third novel, Lost Names, then carefully rewrites Japan’s colonial subjugation of Korea. Examining all three novels together shows how, in many respects, Kim’s second novel fulfills the ambition articulated in Lost Names to assert Korea’s political autonomy through an unambiguous display of Korean military power and effectiveness. Close attention to the historical context of Japanese imperialism and the specific formal techniques Kim employs—the figure of the report, indirect invocations of a hidden resistance, and the strategic use of gendered metaphors—shows how Kim’s fictional works transform Japanese, Korean, and US colonial history. Kim’s novels retrospectively imagine into being a violent, militarized Korean resistance to colonial domination and enact the successful overthrow of Korea’s colonial oppressors.7 The novels reimagine Korea’s colonial struggle as a struggle for narrative control, where narrative authority becomes productively conflated with geopolitical sovereignty. By seizing narrative authority, the novels seek to rewrite the colonial history of East Asia. Through their assertion of a more fully sovereign modern Korean state, capable of decisive military warfare against its oppressors, Kim’s novels challenge Korea’s ostensible history of imperial subjugation to Japan and the West. In this way, Kim’s novels show how Asian American texts often undercut the panethnic solidarity presumed by Asian American scholars via narrower nationalistic representations that foreground conflicts between Asian nations of origin. The Martyred is narrated by Captain Lee, a young South Korean army officer serving in political intelligence and stationed in the North Korean city Pyongyang. The events of the novel occur during the brief time that South Korean, US, and UN forces occupied Pyongyang. Although the characters frequently receive reports on the progress of the war, such events are not the novel’s primary focus. Rather, the novel focuses on the events that follow the arrest and execution of several North Korean Christian ministers by communist forces, prior to the South’s occupation. Captain Lee and his superior, Colonel Chang, investigate what happened to the ministers and explore how they might use this incident to vilify the communists and win the sympathies of Koreans in the North. Much of the drama involves the interactions between the political intelligence officers and the two ministers who survived the execution: the key character Reverend Shin and a younger minister, Mr. Hann. As Hong puts it, “war is almost abstract in The Martyred, its usual signs absent” (147). The Martyred is a war novel without a war. It presents the Korean War as a covert war fought by intelligence officers, as much a matter of interrogation rooms and propaganda leaflets as jeeps, tanks, and soldiers on the ground. At one point, the narrator states: “I had been tricked into a sort of nice little game, in which both the pursuer and the pursued skillfully staged a clever play of intrigues, of plots and counterplots, all this only to reveal that they were fellow conspirators, after all” (R. Kim, Martyred 127; emphasis added). Here the words “staged,” “play,” and “plots” show the extent to which the novel treats political intelligence, wartime propaganda, theatrical performance, and literary representation as overlapping and coordinated strategies for achieving geopolitical aims. The Martyred makes propaganda a central narrative theme, presenting competing, politically motivated versions of the truth. The characters obtain much of their information secondhand through oral and written reports, the veracity of which is constantly in question. The text is dominated as much by what is not depicted and determinate as what is actually shown and known. This indirectness and foregrounding of representational practices is characteristic of Kim’s fiction. The pointed revelations about the malleability of truth, history, and reporting serve as a metanarrative commentary on the novel’s construction of the history it purports only to depict. The novel’s apparent reluctance to confront the war as a thing itself is not so much an acknowledgement of the limits of literary reconstruction as it is a tactical relation to history, a desire to blur the lines between literary suggestion and historical “fact”—generating not a wholly alternative history that can be dismissed as fantasy and fiction but something more subtly woven into the historical discourse. In this way, literary indirection can effectively shift the reader’s perception of Korean history. On the surface, The Martyred seems entirely unconcerned with Korea’s colonial past, mentioning Japan only rarely. By contrast, the novel’s Cold War context registers clearly through its harsh depiction of the communists, its efforts to align all of Korea with the South, and the extent to which it promotes identification between South Korea and the United States. Yet the novel “significantly rescripts the historical record” of the Korean War (Hong 156) in ways that strategically assert Korea’s power and independence and deemphasize the roles played by external powers such as the United States. As Hong puts it, “at almost every turn the novel disavows the driving U.S. role in the war” (153). US forces rarely appear in the novel, and there are no significant American characters among an overwhelmingly Korean cast of characters. The muted US presence signals the novel’s resistant reimagining of the Korean conflict as one conducted almost exclusively by South Koreans. When Colonel Chang declares, “I am not going to let anyone defile our cause. I am not going to let anyone give the Reds an upper hand” (91), he asserts the agency of the South Koreans in the conflict and South Korea’s autonomy from US control. Indictments of the communists as unwelcome outsiders arguably comment on not only the Soviet but also the US imperial presence on the peninsula. In The Martyred, the United States is subtly but firmly decentered, becoming a marginal presence in a Korean War waged by South Korean forces against the communist threat. The South Korean political intelligence and the novel itself work propagandistically to present an independent South Korea that is aligned with the United States as an autonomous ally rather than a state subject to US imperialist influence. Thus, while The Martyred has little to do with Japanese imperialism directly, it employs many of the same techniques as Kim’s later works to achieve the same outcome: the presentation of a carefully altered history that asserts Korea’s autonomy and its emergence from imperialist domination. The Innocent seems similarly to depict South Korea’s struggle to free itself from US influence. Published second among Kim’s novels but set last in the historical timeline, The Innocent takes place in the turbulent decades after the Korean War and narrates the efforts of a group of idealistic colonels to overthrow a corrupt and oppressive government. The group is led by Major Lee’s close friend Colonel Min and includes the narrator Major Lee and several coconspirators. Min and his colleagues seize control of the government amid unanticipated bloodshed that results from a series of betrayals. At the moment of apparent victory, as forces loyal to the coup secure control over the country, Colonel Min is killed in a surprise attack, leaving the future less certain than it had appeared. These events in the novel seem linked to actual events in South Korean history. The newly formed country experienced two separate “nights of the colonels”—military coups against the central government—first on 16 May 1961 and then again in 1979, after the publication of The Innocent in 1968. An epigraph among the novel’s prefatory materials offers a disclaimer about the novel’s depiction of the coup, which effectively encourages the comparison it claims to disavow: The author wishes to make it very clear that all the characters, military units, and events described, mentioned, and implied in this book are fictitious, and that any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, to actual military units bearing certain designations used in this book, and particularly to the history background of the 5.16 Military Revolution in Korea is purely coincidental. The actual 16 May coup ushered in the oppressive eighteen-year rule of Colonel Park Chung-hee and his coconspirator Kim Jong-pil, founder of the powerful intelligence and security agency, the KCIA. The historical bloodless coup overthrew not the postwar authoritarian government of Syngman Rhee, as the novel implies, but rather a democratically elected government under the prime minister, Chang Myŏn. Chang was elected after popular demonstrations led to the ouster of Rhee in the 19 April Revolution of 1960 and came to face criticism for being unduly influenced by the United States (Cumings, Korea’s 349-52). The Innocent thus reimagines not only the circumstances of the coup itself but also the political situation that it militates against, drawing from different aspects of the governments that existed both before and after the historical 1961 coup. While the events depicted in The Innocent are fictional, the text’s relation to actual historical events is calculated and strategic. The narrative seems to offer a more promising, almost idealized re-creation of the historical coup. The novel claims the license to reimagine a military coup with positive ambitions, one set in opposition to a thoroughly corrupt government that perpetuates the oppressions of Korea’s colonial past. The Innocent suggests that South Koreans exhibit an enduring colonial mindset, now largely focused on the United States. Several South Korean government figures are described as US “stooges” (48), and the narrator decries “the sweeping tide of stupidity, evil, corruption, injustice, and flunkyism, a blind, subservient, material and spiritual dependence on the American aid” (240). US Army intelligence officer Colonel McKay represents the US influence in Korea. McKay’s involvement in the coup, as both consultant and participant, is carefully scripted as the novel delicately balances Korean ideological identification with the United States and assertions of Korean independence from the United States. The central figure of the narrative is Colonel Min, whom the text constructs as an almost mythic figure of action. Min’s story encompasses several different lives in one: humble farmer, respected scholar, and military officer in the Japanese, South Korean, and communist armies. Toward the end of the novel, Colonel Min confronts his opponent General Ham in a highly symbolic encounter that serves to consolidate South Korea’s new position of strength. This confrontation is explicitly figured as a “showdown” and is staged under circumstances that recall a cowboy duel (304). Min and Ham face off across an airstrip, flanked on each side by massed military might. Min defeats Ham in part by striking a deal with the United States over the lives of two North Korean spies, and the novel depicts the negotiations between Min and the US representative, Colonel McKay, as high-profile power brokering between two relative equals. Min criticizes opponents of the coup for their colonial mindset, linking their past “fawning” behavior toward the Japanese with their “slavish” “whor[ing]” of Korea to the Americans (341-42). Min then declares to his coconspirators: [I]f [the Americans] genuinely wish to cooperate with us, then they will have to realize that they no longer have a bunch of idiotic yes-men in Seoul. I am going to propose that we get together and make the United Nations Command truly what it is supposed to be rather than a cover-up for what really amounts to an American Command. [. . .] It is time, I think, that they stopped acting as though they were here as an occupational army and that they got rid of their condescension. (376) In the novel, South Korea redefines the geopolitical order, asserting its independence and autonomy and ending its subordination to the United States. Here, then, is an articulation of the final project of the novel, a rescripting of Korean history that will finally end Korea’s history of colonization. Yet, this project cannot be conceived merely as a revolution against a corrupt postcolonial government and the neocolonial influences of the United States. The ambitions of The Innocent can only be understood when placed in the context of the enduring legacy of Japanese colonization, with attention paid to the profound continuities that Kim’s novels draw between colonial and postcolonial conditions in Korea. A 1966 article that Richard Kim wrote in The Atlantic Monthly suggests that South Korea’s postcolonial government simply perpetuates the exploitative patterns of colonial rule. The article recounts Kim’s return to South Korea in 1965, during a period of political tension shortly before South Korea controversially normalized relations with Japan. Kim juxtaposes his frustrations regarding the South Korean government with his recollections about “the last days of the Japanese empire” (“O” 106). As Kim puts it, “The Japanese colonial rule with its brutal, iron-fisted policies for nearly forty years helped Koreans turn suspicion and mistrust of Japanese and fellow Koreans into a nationalistic virtue and patriotic duty” (108). The article highlights the reported opinions of many Koreans who feared that the treaty would lead to “Japanese economic imperialism” (111) and an “economic invasion” by Japan. Some members of the political opposition party claim that President Park’s government is “selling out the country to the Japanese” (109). Park, who served in the Japanese military, argues: “These politicians are simply trying to capitalize on whatever uneasy feelings our people may still have about Japan” (111). Kim’s article, written two years after the publication of The Martyred and two years before the publication of The Innocent, speaks to the lingering effects of Japanese imperialism and the extent to which that legacy continued to shape South Korean political discourse. Korea’s colonial and postcolonial history is inextricably tied to Japan’s own colonial past.8 Both nations were relatively isolated from the West until the second half of the nineteenth century. In the 1850s, Western nations subjected Japan to a series of exploitative treaties that drastically circumscribed its sovereignty. Japan modernized quickly and began to acquire its own colonial territories through victories in wars against China (1895) and Russia (1905). By the turn of the twentieth century, Japan was able to assert its own status as an imperial power on par with the powerful Western nations. Korea remained relatively free from outside intervention until it was “opened” by Japan in 1876, under conditions strikingly similar to Japan’s own “opening” at the hands of the United States twenty-three years earlier. Over the next few decades, Japan consolidated its power in Korea until it formally annexed Korea as a colony in 1910. Japan brutally suppressed dissent in its colonies and pursued cultural policies to encourage the assimilation of its colonial subjects into the empire, such as Japanese language training, forced name changes (kaiseimei), and the promulgation of the Japanese official religion (Shintō).9 Japan’s coercive colonial apparatus and its educational institutions and cultural policies were deeply linked, even contiguous, instruments of control. The cultural violence perpetuated by Japan through its language policies, its bald attempts to indoctrinate colonized youth, and its restriction of native cultural practices was matched by the extremes of physical violence perpetrated by its coercive institutions, from the brutality of the Japanese military to the frequent use of torture by Japanese civil authorities.10 Japan’s control over Korea ended only with its unconditional surrender to the Allied powers in 1945. Alexis Dudden traces the key role that the performative power of diplomatic discourse played in the Japanese colonization of Korea. Whereas Japan succeeded in defining itself as a sovereign imperialist power, Korea, with the consent of the international community, was rendered diplomatically invisible (4). As Dudden explains, Japan sought to control discourse on the international level and more locally in its colonies, employing “what can only be described as the self-conscious language of colonial power” in an effort to “set the terms for any discussion of its policies in Korea that might arise” (20). Members of the Korean resistance sought to define themselves in turn as internationally legitimate, intelligible, and sovereign subjects. Japanese colonial discourse countered these efforts through a “larger policy of lexically demeaning Korean resistance” (87). Japanese and Koreans were engaged in a self-conscious contest over the representation of the relationship between the Japanese colonizer and the Korean colonized. For both parties, the power to control the representation of Japan’s colonization of Korea was a key component of their efforts to assert their authority over the Korean peninsula. Lost Names takes as its subject precisely the conditions of Japanese colonial rule in Korea. Lost Names presents itself as a quasi-autobiographical memoir, depicting the boyhood experiences of its narrator, pointedly unnamed, as he grows up in colonized Korea during the 1930s and 1940s. Kim addresses in his “Author’s Note” the “question of its genre”: I wrote the book as a work of fiction—and there is no question that it is fiction if one examines its literary techniques. But most readers seem to view it as an autobiography, a memoir. In short, they seem to accept that the young boy, the first-person narrator, is the author himself and that Lost Names is therefore a “real” story. Perhaps I should have included a disclaimer: all the characters and events described in this book are real, but everything else is fiction . . . (197-98) Lost Names is therefore ambiguously but productively situated between what Kim calls “pure ‘fiction’” and “pure ‘nonfiction’ autobiography or memoir” (198). The novel itself is presented as a series of seven “scenes” that touch on crucial moments in the narrator’s childhood, from the age of one to the age of thirteen and spanning the years from 1933 to 1945. Lost Names opens with the parents’ flight from Korea into Manchuria during the narrator’s infancy and ends on the day of the Japanese Emperor’s radio broadcast announcing the unconditional surrender of Japan, which effectively ended World War II. In Lost Names, the young narrator laments that Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule stemmed not from Korea’s own efforts but from Japan’s defeat at the Allied hands in 1945 (182). The boy’s father agrees: “We didn’t earn it ourselves. You are right. Our liberation is a gift, so to speak, and not something that we have fought for and won. That bothers me, too, son” (184). The narrator and his father express the central problem of the novel: Korea’s “gifted” liberation and the historical absence of large-scale armed insurrection within Korea against Japanese rule. One project of the novel is to construct such an insurrection retrospectively through literary means. Lost Names stresses the idea of the historical as a tool for controlling perception and representation. As the narrator’s father puts it, “The Japanese had taken over the country and their control was too entrenched and too strong to resist, but, above anything else, by then, the so-called international political pattern had come to accept Japan’s occupation of our country as an established fact—already historical” (185; emphasis added). The performative power of the retrospective assessment is precisely what is at stake for the characters in Lost Names and for the narrative itself. The novel attempts to dislodge that sense of the givenness of the Japanese colonization of Korea while, at the same time, generating and legitimizing alternative histories that position Korea as empowered and self-determined. The novel’s presentation of itself as something akin to an historical record may be taken more as an ambition than an actuality—the desire for the work of fiction to be read as a nonfictional account of past reality, altering the perception of past events in the process of recounting them. The novel begins with a conversation between the narrator and his mother about an event that occurred years earlier when the narrator was an infant. In this way, the novel dramatizes its retrospective viewpoint: the events that occur in this chapter and others have already taken place, firmly established “thirty some years” in the narrator’s past (21). At the same time, however, the narration is conveyed in the present tense: the present tense (“I see”) (24) and the present progressive (“I am seeing”) (172) cast the events as being in progress, undecided, and subject to change. This productive temporal blurring of past and present emphasizes the authoritative status of the narration, its decidedness, and also its generative potential, its openendedness. Similarly, when the narrator marks a shift in his narration—“I can see . . . I am seeing” (172)—he makes visible the logic of the narration, which asserts at the level of the sentence its capacity to transform the potential into the actual. Lost Names presents Korean resistance to Japanese rule in the same manner, as the realization of a hidden potential. The novel constructs a generalized Korean resistance indirectly, not through the bald depiction of an immediately robust resistance movement but through the gradual, gestural invocation of a latent network of resistance that finally mobilizes at the novel’s conclusion. Moments of open, direct resistance described at the beginning of the novel (8, 12) are linked to hints of resistance scattered throughout the rest of the narrative to suggest a movement that has gone deeply underground. The narrator suggests: “My father knows something about bombs, I suspect, although not too much about aerial bombs. . . .” (121). Ellipses feature regularly throughout the novel, reinforcing the notion that all is not being said. The narrative constructs a Korean resistance obliquely and through intimation, creating the impression that it absolutely exists but cannot be detected precisely because it must remain hidden. Isolated acts of defiance in the novel stand in for the larger referent of the hidden resistance movement. At one point, the narrator and his classmates “have been made to play” the parts of Japanese soldiers in a celebration of “the Crown Prince’s birthday” (117). Every character in the novel is clear about the metaphorical stakes of this production, and the narrator enlists the other students in a “collaborat[ion]” to sabotage the performance (140). The young narrator refuses to make a speech in praise of the Japanese Crown Prince. He stands silently on the stage, displaying his body, bruised and battered from his beating at the hands of his Japanese teacher (140-42). The spectacle of the suffering boy mutely challenges the authority of the Japanese-run school. Here, resistance at the performance of the play becomes the performance of a play resistance, a metaphorical resistance that stands in for the colonial resistance it implicitly invokes. This dramatic display of resistance on a smaller scale prefigures the climactic confrontation at the novel’s end. The final chapter of Lost Names, titled “In the Making of History—Together,” outlines a confrontation between the Korean townspeople and the Japanese colonial police that follows the Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s declaration of unconditional surrender. The narrative concludes on a triumphant note, as the village overthrows the local Japanese authorities. As the youthful narrator insists, both his village and the fictionalized memoir itself “make history” through this localized rebellion, metaphorically invoking a violent Korean war for colonial independence that never historically took place. The title of Kim’s final chapter is telling, for Lost Names is not merely about Korean history but about the making and shaping of that history. In the end, the text manifests the potential for resistance that it has metaphorically intimated throughout, culminating in a militarily pointless, but symbolically crucial, battle to liberate the town. The text unabashedly suggests that the battle is necessary to reassert Korean manhood after the Japanese occupation, linking masculinity, violence, and national sovereignty. Characters become transformed in the wake of the Japanese emperor’s declaration of surrender. The town is immediately militarized, as if a latent military structure needed only a spark to emerge. “[A] battle plan is drawn up” (171), and military jargon punctuates the narration: “I am thinking of organizing our farmers. We must post sentries. [. . .] We must set up a system of relaying information. [. . .] We must post lookouts [. . .] and we should also mobilize the townspeople and all the young men in the neighboring villages, and . . .” (176). Groups of men become “deployments” (192) and “detachments” (188); food becomes “rations” (188); and even the weather becomes militarized, “with the roll of thunder drumming and flashes of lightning bayoneting out of billowy black rain clouds” (160; emphasis added). The coordinated action of the Korean characters is expressed as a “take-over” (178, 187, 192), a seizure of governmental control that finally enacts the wished-for war for independence. The climactic moment of the confrontation is carefully staged. The Japanese chief of police salutes and ceremoniously hands “his gleaming saber” to the narrator’s father (194). The father then turns to the amassed crowd and declares: “Everyone! Everyone! [. . .] I have now taken over the police station in behalf of our town! [. . .] I have also taken over all the public offices and facilities and the properties of the Japanese Empire in our town. [. . .] In behalf of the committee for self-rule and public safety, I now declare our town liberated!” [. . .] [T]hen, someone strikes a drum, and, with the BOOM-BOOM, comes a dizzying pandemonium—deafening cheers and roaring shouts and wild cries, gongs crashing, cymbals jangling, drums rolling and torches waving, the whole world tumbling and shaking and exploding. (194-95) In the novel, the father’s redeclaration of liberation has a performative impact equal to that of Hirohito’s declaration of surrender. The father’s words set off a scene of “pandemonium,” replete with explosions, shaking, tumbling, and great booms, as if to figure the great battle that has ultimately been deferred by the peaceful surrender of the Japanese police. The narrator nevertheless declares: “Today, this night, the town is at last OURS. Today, this night, I join the ranks of men in the making of history—together” (195). This last statement is doubly true, for just as the characters in Kim’s novel are “making history,” so, too, is the author “making history” through this careful refiguration of the moment of Korean liberation. Lost Names is an extended meditation on the Korean experience of the history of Japanese colonization—a meditation that also intervenes in that history while thematizing the idea of the historical itself. The novel gestures toward a clandestine Korean resistance that is precisely not seen. Resistance then becomes open, active, and effective, achieving literarily what otherwise never occurred: a successful full-scale armed rebellion against Japanese rule. By the end of the novel, even the language of the narration has been conscripted into service. Generically, the narration takes up the conventions of the war novel, much like its characters take up arms against their Japanese oppressors. If the first part of Lost Names is about the names that the Koreans have lost and the success of the Japanese colonizers in their efforts to control expression and dominate the narrative, then its conclusion concerns the novel’s seizure of the tools of narration, in parallel with the seizure of the weapons of open militant resistance by the Korean characters. The novel imaginatively generates effective Korean resistance through not only the depiction of a militant revolution at the novel’s conclusion but also the assertion of Korean narrative control—the power to depict, narrate, and represent. These imaginative depictions in Kim’s novels frequently rely on gendered and sexualized imagery. As Anne McClintock, Edward Said, and many others have argued, the relationship between colonizer and colonized has often been figured as a sexualized encounter between a dominant man and submissive woman (McClintock 14; Said 5-6). Jodi Kim and Naoko Shibusawa discuss how gendered representations can be used to “domesticat[e] a former enemy nation by demilitarizing and feminizing it” (J. Kim 99). According to Shibusawa, “the notion of the geisha . . . was central to postwar America’s vision of Japan” (12). In this post-Pacific War and Cold War climate, the image of the pleasing and meek female figure helped to reconstruct US-Japanese geopolitical relations in the minds of US inhabitants and “transform[ed] the Japanese enemy into an acceptable ally” (9). These sexualized tropes have often characterized Orientalist depictions of relations between the West and Asia. Historically, the discourse surrounding Japanese and Korean colonial relations has mirrored this gendering of colonial discourse, with Japan in the masculine role and Korea in the feminine role. Richard Kim’s novels, however, exploit Western Orientalist tropes about a submissive, feminized Asia and label these tropes as specifically Japanese in character, rather than Korean or Asian. Kim’s novels do not challenge the Orientalist feminization of Asia nor do they undermine sexist masculine/feminine binaries that associate masculinity with dominance and femininity with submission. Rather, they seize these tools of colonial discourse and redeploy them to challenge Japanese colonial authority and change the image of Korea. The novels position Korea alongside the West as an empowered, independent, and masculine actor, in contrast to a more effete Japan, thereby reimagining Japanese and Korean colonial history and asserting Korean sovereignty. In this way, Kim’s novels arguably reinforce Orientalist tropes and perpetuate sexist binaries. At a crucial point in The Innocent, the narrator, Major Lee, is sent to Japan and remains there for the duration of the coup under the care of the Americans. The majority of Lee’s stay in Japan is set in the mountain resort region of Hakone. The characters describe the space as an American “hideaway” (233), with Colonel McKay as its master. Unlike Korea, Japan is presented as an Americanized, almost colonized territory (229). The narrator draws a sharp contrast between Korea and Japan along gendered lines: What was I doing here—immersed deeply in the perfumed water, in a Japanese mountain retreat, in Colonel McKay’s “castle to get away from it all,” in the heart of the Hakone, waited on by a Japanese maidservant, while back in the dark, muddy, slushy, stench-filled battlefront of Korea’s rocky, rugged, barren hills my comrades in life and death were desperately diagnosing the grave ills of the crippled nation and her stricken people. (235; emphasis added) The gendered contrast between an indolent Japan and a “rugged” Korea in this passage is unmistakable. Lee’s Korean “comrades in life and death” embody precisely those “barbarian virtues,” as Theodore Roosevelt called them, that typify vigorous nations and their agents.11 Japan, by contrast, is characterized by the bewitching, intoxicating pull of the Orient, which threatens, in accordance with the familiar trope, to soften and effeminize. The languorous setting refigures Japan as a space of sensual enervation. The narrator recounts: “I, with a sigh, abandoned myself to a drowsy, dreamy, soft sensation of my weightless body drowning and floating in the warm, velvety, all-embracing, supple, scented water . . .” (236). This representation of the Orient as a languid, feminized space is figured as specifically Japanese, rather than Korean or more generally Asian. In this way, the novel exploits Orientalist tropes to redefine the relative positions of the two nations through the assignment of stereotypical gender positions. Lost Names similarly constructs a Korean resistance that is assiduously coded as masculine and manly, eliding the role of Korean women and drawing sharp contrasts with Japanese occupiers who are coded as effeminate and ineffectual. It is no accident that the narrator claims to “join the ranks of men in the making of history—together” (195), for women are largely written out of this resistance narrative. The novel depicts men working with men and Korean men working against, and suffering at the hands of, Japanese men. The vision that remains is of a strong and masculine nation held down by the collective, systematized power of a more effete colonial intruder. Here again, Kim’s novels are invested in stereotypical associations of manhood with independence, power, and autonomy and focus intensively on physical and military violence as the means through which one can assert one’s sovereignty and strength. An encounter between the young narrator and his Japanese gym teacher exemplifies these specific gender dynamics. The teacher viciously beats the narrator for a perceived act of defiance: And suddenly—with a whish—the bamboo sword smashes my bottom, jolting me with a numbing blow that instantly shoots thousands of sharp needles of pain through my body, snapping it into an arch, flinging my head backward. My body is shaking, and my knees trembling, and I can’t control my body. I press my lips tight and close my eyes with all my strength, but I can’t shut the tears in. I taste the salty tears on my lips, but I make no sound. The bamboo sword is slashing into my flesh, onto my legs, my bottom, my back, each blow contorting my body and blinding me for a second. [. . .] I can take it, I can take it, I think. (133-34) The novel presents the violent contact between the teacher’s “sword” and the narrator’s bared “bottom” in graphic terms that emphasize both the physical sensations of the assault and the narrator’s gritty endurance of the pain. The narrator perceives his body as “alive and pulsating” and his “masochistic euphoria” transforms into a violent struggle and a refusal to continue to be assaulted: And, now, every sensation within me is turning, with each blow, into a boundless contempt, and my contempt is burning into hatred, a hatred fierce and immense—until, screaming, I am bending down, pulling up my pants, and the bamboo sword is striking me everywhere, on my back, my neck, my head—and I am crouching down, buckling my belt, and, now standing up, screaming and screaming, blinded by my hatred and rage, I lunge at the man, my head smashing into his underbelly, my fists punching into his groin. (134) This scene depicts a moment of violence and abjection that is also unmistakably sexualized, and the boy resists by targeting the teacher’s “underbelly” and “groin.” Here, the narrator refuses his initial position as a sexualized, martyr-like object of violence and transforms himself into resistant subject. This transformation from subjection to revolt is repeated not only in the final battle of Lost Names but several times in The Innocent, including four strikingly similar scenes of torture and resistance that rehearse and ultimately refigure the scene of colonial violence (26-27, 33-35, 85-87, 162-67). Characterized by physical debasement and bodily failure, each iteration marks increasingly a transition from capitulation to physical revolt, prefiguring the climactic military coup that brings an end to Korea’s enduring colonial oppression. The third and fourth iterations are similar scenes of violence involving Colonel Min. In the third scene, Colonel Min is captured by the Japanese army and beaten badly before he kills his Japanese tormentor and escapes to safety (81-87). The text maintains the core image of the Korean’s “battered, bleeding, aching body” (86) but depicts the physical revolt and overthrow of the colonial oppressor. The final scene of the four occurs in Soviet-controlled North Korea immediately after the Japanese surrender. The scene depicts Colonel Min’s interrogation at the hands of two Russian officers and a “North Korean major, [Min’s] former comrade in arms and now [his] captor.” The Russians occupy the former plantation home of a wealthy Japanese man. Min is interrogated in the basement while Russian officers carouse upstairs: “[T]he phonograph was blasting out some old Japanese war songs and the Russians were bellowing out, imitating the songs, laughing and roaring.” The imitative singing of the Russians parodies the Japanese war songs but also suggests that the Russians follow in the footsteps of the Japanese. The North Korean major begins whipping Min as the Russians watch. Min is enraged at his humiliation but realizes that the major’s violence signals a kind of self-loathing regarding the North Korean’s own subservient position under Soviet command (164). The narrative frames this encounter in precisely these psychological terms, such that the whipping becomes a spectacle of mutual debasement linked to the continuation of Korea’s colonial condition, with Russians in the role of the Japanese. Min seizes the whip from the North Korean and begins whipping him: “[I]t was then that we, both of us, saw that the Russians, the Russian major, the garrison commander, and the big lieutenant—they were laughing and laughing and laughing [. . .] and suddenly, I thought I could hear the roaring laughter and the old Japanese war songs and the tinkling and shattering of the glasses upstairs” (165). Min and the North Korean major seem then to recall their shared history of colonial subjugation, and they revolt against the Russians. Min whips and shoots the Russian lieutenant while the North Korean strangles the Russian major (165-66). The two Koreans break free from the garrison, shooting the guards and grabbing their machine guns as part of their escape (167). What began as a scene of torture and interrogation radically transforms into a scene of violent, militarized revolt, with Koreans reuniting to overthrow their foreign oppressors. The text refigures the scene of colonial violence, constructing a fantasy of revolution and empowerment that mirrors the larger narrative of coordinated, militant resistance and liberation entailed by the coup. The legacy of colonialism is thus a given in The Innocent. The text emphasizes not only the continuities of foreign oppression, where communists perpetuate Japan’s brutal colonial legacy, but also the continuities between Japanese colonialism and a South Korean government depicted as hopelessly “corrupt” (23). Min insists to a South Korean general that the coup is an act of liberation: “You seem to think that we are going to occupy the country as if we were at war with an enemy in a foreign land” (58). Min invokes the language of colonization but insists that the conspirators are not occupiers but liberators. This rhetoric positions the existing government, not the coup, as usurpers and foreign oppressors from whom the nation must be freed. In The Innocent, textual difficulty and the figure of the report function in ways similar to the strategies of indirection and genre blending in Lost Names—that is, as literary strategies that allow the novel to complete the project of reimagining Korea’s colonial history. Readers of The Innocent may struggle to track the novel’s various characters, intrigues, and plots. According to Richard M. Elman in The New York Times Book Review, the novel involves “a general confusion of names, events, deeds and personalities which even [Kim’s] characters seem to share” (4). Beyond the core group of conspirators, the novel presents a large cast of military officers from several different factions, all thinly developed. The characters enact a series of moves, countermoves, “countercoup[s]” (R. Kim, Innocent 284), and hostage-taking, involving secret messages, bribes, escape plans, “betrayal from all sides” (279), and the revelation that two participants in the coup are in fact secret communist “superagent[s]” (276). The plot twists often strain credulity, yet this textual difficulty is arguably deliberate and strategic. As Peter Brooks shows, “plot” has multiple meanings, and Kim’s novel exploits the potential conflation of these overlapping meanings. Brooks brings together four senses of the English word plot—a physical stretch of land, a “diagram” that demarcates physical space, a plot in the literary sense, and a “secret plan to accomplish a hostile or illegal purpose [or] scheme” (11-12). These aspects of plotting can overlap: literary plots may function as “secret plan[s]” to “realiz[e]” desired outcomes that contradict the established order in their fictional worlds (12), thereby redefining physical spaces and creating new boundaries. The reader’s difficulty following the complex covert action is thus a strategic aspect of the novel. The narrative, like the conspiracy itself, constructs a highly coordinated, hidden organization. These covert forces operate beyond one’s easy grasp and are therefore also empowered to escape identification, external manipulation, and suppression—by either the readers of the Innocent or the novel itself. The novel effectively stages its own inability to track the covert, guerrilla movements of the characters it has created, as a means to figure the existence of elements in the text that are resistant to narrative control—independent actors operating outside of the centralized, scripting authority of the text.12 Kim’s characters have no existence outside of the novel, yet the novel dramatizes its limited ability to “control” its own creations to symbolize a resistance to the totalizing power of the novel and, figuratively, the totalizing power of the colonizer. Here, the figuratively imperialistic relations between the controlling narrator and the subordinated, penetrable, and narratable subjects of the text are disrupted, creating a performance of resistance to controlling authority at the level of form. Gerald Prince outlines several formal narrative strategies one would expect to find in a postcolonial narrative. On the one hand, postcolonial texts thematize hybridity, incompleteness, partiality, and division, in ways familiar to scholars of minority literature in the United States (375-76). These texts disrupt the centralized authority of conventional narration, showing how dominant modes of representation cannot adequately represent the subjectivity of the colonized. Through their very form, postcolonial texts undermine narrative authority, symbolically enacting a resistance to dominant forces and colonial authority. On the other hand, these works also assert for themselves the “linguistic power” to represent the very groups that conventional narratives have marginalized or misrepresented (374). In this way, postcolonial works perform a seizure of narrative power akin to the seizure of political power, asserting a sovereign authority uninhibited by outside influence or control. Kim’s novels combine these two postcolonial impulses—the disruption of power and the seizure of power—working in two distinct but interrelated ways to assert effective Korean resistance to outside controlling authority and to claim for those who have previously only been scripted the power to narrate their place in the world. The plots of Kim’s novels follow the trajectory of a successful plot to overthrow an established authority: the covert forces of resistance initially disrupt existing authority and then claim that authority for themselves. In The Innocent, plots of novels, plots of resistance fighters, and plots of land become conflated, working in concert to demarcate contested territories in terms dictated by Koreans rather than by outside forces. The plot of The Innocent resembles the plots of its Korean conspirators—supplanting the existing power structure with an alternate shadow structure to alter prevailing historical perceptions. The textual difficulty of The Innocent frustrates a centralized, surveilling authority and works against dominant modes of perceiving and representing, with the goal to redraw boundaries and transform the geopolitical order. Here, the logic of The Innocent parallels the logic of Lost Names. Both texts carefully construct an effective hidden resistance that emerges to overthrow its oppressors and claim power and control. Through the idea of the report, Richard Kim also exploits what Brooks calls “the necessary retrospectivity of narrative” (22). According to Brooks, “narrative ever, and inevitably . . . presents itself as a repetition and rehearsal . . . of what has already happened. . . . [T]he claim to repeat in fact produces the event presented as prior” (25). Brooks identifies the power of the retrospective glance to reshape or even create what has presumably come before it. By claiming only to repeat past events, the report presents itself as the mere rehearsal of an established fact, disavowing its very real scripting power. The report’s construction of an event as prior and the disavowal of the report’s productive power thus doubly emphasize the decidedness of the depicted event, which is essential in a work that seeks to rewrite a country’s colonial past. The epistemological status of these reports is crucial in The Innocent. As Brooks explains, “this repetition and rehearsal is precisely how readers verify what did in fact happen in the world of the text” (25). There is no other way for readers to access the events of a novel except through the reporting of the narration. Kim’s novel exploits this fact by embedding reports within reports, such that even characters in the novel receive their information secondhand. The characters in the novel stand in for the readers themselves, processing the key developments of the text as events that have already been decided, that are already a part of the determined history of the textual world. The sense of decidedness and truthfulness conveyed by these retrospective reconstructions can therefore influence the novel’s readers and its characters to accept the novel’s representations as factual and accurate. In fact, this narrative strategy is arguably central to the ambitions of a postcolonial text that “writes back.” Like other authors who wish to write back, Richard Kim both rewrites the narrative and asserts his power to narrate. He shows himself as subtly but firmly seizing the power to forge history. Kim’s use of reports to communicate plot points is a fundamental characteristic of the novel’s form. No story in The Innocent is ever unmediated. The climactic events of the novel are communicated via a Japanese newspaper report, an “extra edition [. . .] devoted entirely to the coup in Korea” (261). The report takes up several pages in the novel, recounting the Korean revolution as a triumphant achievement of planning and execution: “[T]he plan for occupying the capital was a model of military precision and a marvel of brilliant tactics and foresight [involving] meticulous care and astounding precision [and demonstrating] a brilliant clockwork efficiency and swiftness. [. . .] [T]he plan of operations had been conceived down to every minute detail” (266-67). This glowing assertion of the conspirators’ military prowess completes the fantasy of military revolution imagined by the text, offering precisely the tactical coordination and overwhelming military force that was absent during the colonial period and World War II. The article reports: “[T]he coup d’état is now a fait accompli” (267). This crucial symbolic phrasing demonstrates the importance of the reportedness of these events. Through its reporting, the coup does become an accomplished fact, as the report lends this reconceptualization of history authenticity and verisimilitude. In this way, the narrative is retrospective, yet performative. In fact, one might say that it is performative because it is retrospective, working all the more effectively to “remake” history because it purports only to record what has already happened. The Japanese extra edition notes: “[T]here have been reports that spontaneous demonstrations supporting the coup have been staged in several cities” (264), which presents a potential paradox in the form of demonstrations that are both “spontaneous” and “staged.” The novel’s performative ambitions help to resolve this apparent paradox, however, for the function of the report in The Innocent is precisely to stage what seems to be spontaneous or naturally emergent. The Innocent thus uses the same techniques as Lost Names, conflating past and present, such that a decided past is simultaneously in the process of being decided. The novel’s creative reimagination of the 1961 coup crucially constitutes a military independence, similar to that of Kim’s Lost Names, achieved forcibly through an abundance of organization, planning, and execution. Here again, Kim emphasizes the importance of military power and violence, and a stereotypically masculinized identity, in the assertion of national sovereignty and colonial independence. The Innocent attempts rhetorically to transform a military coup into a democratic revolution, yet these rhetorical acrobatics seem less contradictory if one places them in the context of an enduring colonial legacy. The Innocent demonstrates both Kim’s continued preoccupation with Korea’s colonial past and his exploitation of narrative form in an attempt to reconstruct the past and the present. The novel’s distinctive narrative techniques—involving plotting, textual difficulty, and the report—are linked through a narrative progression from one to the other: the untraceable resistance becomes the already accomplished takeover of power. Each technique points toward the actual war in which the protagonists seize control. The reader never sees this war, however, for the achievement of independence occurs entirely offstage. The Innocent thus employs the same strategies of indirectness as Lost Names and The Martyred. In Lost Names, narrative techniques of indirection and the shift into conventions of the war novel reframe the closing scene as a symbolic battle without a battle, signaling Korea’s overthrow of its Japanese colonizers. The Martyred is similarly a war novel without a war, transforming the Korean War into a clandestine contest of intrigue and propaganda waged by South Korean intelligence operatives. While The Martyred never deeply engages with Japanese imperialism, the novel’s place in Kim’s persistent project to reframe Korea’s past becomes clearer once one recognizes the importance of Japan to Lost Names and The Innocent. The subtly transformative historical repositioning found in all of Kim’s novels speaks to their central ideological message: the end of Korea’s imperial subjugation and the assertion of a powerful, organized, and independent Korea. To varying degrees, all three of Kim’s novels engage with the legacy of Korea’s imperial subjugation, particularly its colonization by Japan. Exploring the impact of Japanese imperialism on Asian American literature contributes to a more complete understanding of the complex discursive context in which Asian American works are immersed. By examining Japanese empire, one also disrupts habitual patterns of reading imperial domination, where one presumes the colonizer to be white and Western and the colonized to be nonwhite and from outside the West. Japanese imperialism also foregrounds the cultural and national divides within the formation Asian American—divides which sometimes exist in tension with the collective identity and political coalition of Asian Americans. Making visible these divides also draws attention to power differentials among the diverse Asian American nationalities of origin that might otherwise remain unaddressed in transnational readings.13 The project facing scholars now is to remap Asian American studies yet again, honoring and building on the existing transnational scholarship in ways that expand and ground the field’s interpretive and representational horizons. One must foreground intra-Asian locations and contexts, beyond a narrow focus on US contexts, juxtaposing Kim’s work with Japan’s aggressive attempts—during its colonial period and after—to control the terms under which its colonial project is understood. Kim’s work exploits the narrator’s power to dictate the terms of an encounter in the act of narrating it as a formal feature through which the conditions of colonial domination are produced and contested. The novels show the importance of a hybrid approach to Asian American transnational studies that explores the intersection of US-focused traditional Asian American studies and Asian studies. This approach makes visible often overlooked intra-Asian tensions and decenters the United States as a necessary and inevitable geographical point of orientation. This altered transnational perspective opens up further avenues of interpretation for Asian American literature. One might revisit previously neglected texts such as Younghill Kang’s The Grass Roof (1931), one of the first Korean American novels, which is set entirely in Korea and depicts life under Japanese rule. One might also reexamine more familiar texts, such as Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters (1990), through the history of Japanese imperialism in the Philippines. Other transnational texts, such as novels by Chang-rae Lee and Shirley Geok-lin Lim, can also be reread in this way. Exploring these fresh critical terrains will contribute to the ongoing transformation in American studies that the transnational turn has initiated, expanding the critical conversation to register the complex global network of influences that structure American studies and US cultural production. Footnotes 1. See Sau-ling C. Wong and Shirley Geok-lin Lim et al. For important discussion of the debate, see Kandice Chuh (“Of Hemispheres”) and Lingyan Yang on the need to coordinate “Asian American” and “postcolonial Asian diasporic” contexts when “theorizing Asian America” (Yang 141). For scholarship that works to decenter the United States within transnational Asian American studies, see Kandice Chuh (Imagine) and Jinqi Ling. See also more recent engagements with the transpacific as a dynamic and arguably polycentric transnational network of flows and spaces, including Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyen, Yuan Shu and Donald E. Pease, and Erin Suzuki. 2. My thanks to an anonymous reviewer and to my colleague Andrew Sargent who rearticulated the essay’s arguments in these terms. 3. For other Asian American authors with a transnational focus beyond the borders of the United States, see Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jessica Hagedorn, Karen Tei Yamashita, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, Ha Jin, Younghill Kang, and Chang-rae Lee, among others. 4. For biographical details about Richard E. Kim and for a detailed publication and reception history of his major works, see Susan Choi, Heinz Insu Fenkl, and Jae-Nam Han. 5. See Choi, Sung-Ae Lee, Jung In Kang, Keith Lawrence, Robert Goar, Gerald Haslam, and Mario Valdés. 6. For detailed accounts of the Korean War and its origins, see Bruce Cumings and William Stueck. In a personal account about the Korean War and Vietnam War, Colonel Harry Summers, Jr. identifies a US-centric bias in American perceptions of the wars: American ethnocentrism is suggested by the conventional wisdom accepted by [American] supporters and protesters of the war alike: the wars in Korea and Vietnam were “our” wars. In both cases, America is seen as the prime protagonist, and China, officially at least, as the main adversary. . . . In actuality, during both wars the United States was merely a partner and, in human terms, a junior partner at that. (173) For a discussion of Korean perspectives on the Korean War, see Dong-choon Kim. According to Kim, “official South Korean historiographic approaches to the Korean War” (iv) and many “foreign scholars” overemphasize the broader, international context of the war. Kim’s work, by contrast, effectively decenters US-centric perspectives while foregrounding the experiences of “ordinary South Koreans” (iii) and the importance of historical factors from within Korea. In this way, Dong-choon Kim’s historiographic practice parallels Richard Kim’s fiction: both deemphasize US involvement in the war and assert the importance of Korean actions. 7. There was a long and important history of Korean resistance to Japanese colonial rule, both within and outside of Korea, as attested by the 1 March Independence Movement in 1919 and the guerrilla activities of the future ruler of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, and others. See Cumings (Korea’s 154, 160-61), Woo-keun Han (464-92), and Allan R. Millet (189-90). 8. For detailed historical accounts of Japanese imperialism, see W. G. Beasley and Ramon Myers and Mark Peattie. For histories that focus specifically on the contest over representation in Japanese colonial history, see Leo Ching and Alexis Dudden. Dudden and Cumings (Korea’s) provide useful overviews of colonial relations between Japan and Korea. 9. See Leo Ching for a detailed discussion of Japan’s efforts to reshape the culture of its colonized subjects in Taiwan and throughout its colonial empire. 10. The brutality of the Japanese military during this period is well documented. See Iris Chang (173). 11. See Matthew Frye Jacobson regarding Roosevelt’s assertion that the United States must retain a specifically manly national character. 12. This reading of the novel as staging the limits of its narrative authority owes much to D. A. Miller’s reading of omniscient narration. 13. 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Published: May 7, 2018

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