Camptowns & Korean Adoption Conference


Seoul National University and advocacy group Me & Korea are delighted to co-host the conference “Camptowns & Korean Adoption” in Korea. If you live locally and are interested in attending, please register for free here.

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About the Conference

The focus of this conference is to spotlight the intersection of US military presence and Korean society, focusing on the US military camptown areas of Korea and the lives of people who live and lived there, as well as the historical context surrounding the adoption of thousands of mixed-race Koreans overseas and the historical trajectory of the US military camptowns in Korea. The conference will also include one session to discuss the historical trajectory of the US military camptowns in South Korea via geopolitical and socio-economic perspectives. This conference will feature several academic presentations, films and filmmakers, and a panel of Koreans of mixed descent. We hope you can join us!


Conference Schedule

9:00 - 9:30am


Coffee & Tea will be provided

9:30 - 9:40am

Opening Remarks

9:40 - 10:20am

'GI Babies' and the Origins of International Adoption

Arissa Oh, Boston College

10:25am - 12:00pm

Geopolitics, Development, and Prostitution in the US Military

Seoul National University

12:00 - 1:00pm


1:00 - 1:40pm

Camptown Mothers: The Secrecy and Stigma of Transnational Adoption

Hosu Kim, College of Staten Island

1:45 - 3:00pm

Camptown: Mixed Race Koreans

Kyungtae Park, writer and Filmmaker

3:00 - 3:15pm


3:15 - 4:30pm

Adoptee Panel

Facilitated by Sue-Je Gaje, Ithaca College


Video Presentation

Deann Borshay Liem

5:00 - 5:10pm

Closing Remarks



Featured Speakers


Arissa Oh

Arissa H. Oh is Associate Professor in the History Department at Boston College, where she teaches and researches migration in US history, particularly in relation to race, gender, and kinship. Her book on the history of international adoption, To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption, was published by Stanford University Press in 2015. She is currently working on a history of marriage migration and immigration fraud since the 19th century.


Deann Borshay Liem

Deann Borshay Liem is a director, producer and writer with over twenty years experience working in development, production, and distribution of independent films. She is Producer/Director of the Emmy Award-nominated documentary First Person Plural, and the award-winning film In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, both of which premiered nationally on PBS on the POV series. A Sundance Institute Fellow and a recipient of the 2018 Women, Peace and Security Fellowship from the San Francisco Film Society, Deann has produced and executive produced numerous award-winning documentaries, including AKA Don Bonus, Kelly Loves Tony, Special Circumstances, The Apology, Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story, Burqa Boxers, Mimi & Dona, and Ishi’s Return. Her film, Memory of Forgotten War, which explores the legacies of the Korean War, was broadcast nationally on PBS stations in May 2015. She is currently in post-production with Geographies of Kinship, a historical film about transnational adoption, and in production with Crossings about an international group of women peacemakers who crossed the DMZ from North to South Korea, calling for peace on the Korean peninsula.

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Sue-Je Lee Gage

Sue-Je Lee Gage  is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at Ithaca College.  Her specialization and scholarship centers on the lives, histories and experiences of “mixed” Koreans known as Korean “Amerasians” in South Korea and in the United States, with whom she has worked since 2002.  She received a Doctorate in Anthropology from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2007 and a Korea Foundation post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley from 2007-2008. She has published several articles on race, citizenship and belonging and is currently writing a manuscript. As a long-term  insider ethnographer, her work is cross-disciplinary, exploring holistically how Korean Amerasians as local, national and global citizens identify themselves and strategically use their identities to maneuver within Korean society, the United States, and the globalizing world. Her research areas include belonging and citizenship and militarization, as well as the dimensions, policies, conflicts and personal agency. She teaches courses on race and mixed race, identity, gender, media, militarization, and Asian American studies.  Photo credit: Dayna Fische


Hosu Kim

Hosu Kim is an educator and researcher based in New York City.  Born and raised in South Korea, Kim moved to the United States in the mid-1990s as an international student. She initially considered her relocation to be temporary. However, after spending 20 years in transit between the U.S and Korea, she considers herself to be part of the Korean diaspora, having two homes across the Pacific. 

Kim approaches the practice of transnational adoption as a systematic reproductive injustice against poor and working-class families and single mothers in Korea. With a focus on the making of birth mothers, her research offers a critical understanding of the complex array of historical backgrounds and institutional forces entrenched in the mechanism that fuels transnational adoption. Her more than a decade of research culminates in the book, Birth Mothers and Transnational Adoption Practice in South Korea: Virtual Mothering, published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2016. 

Kim’s connection with Me & Korea’s Motherland tour dates back to 2015, when she attended its first conference, Camptown and Korea, held in Berkeley, CA. In April and June of 2017, Kim joined the tour as a guest speaker. During the latter part of the trip, she organized a workshop for birth mothers and adoptee participants. This experience has informed her current project, which explores the politics of reproductive justice and transnational adoption in South Korea. 

Kim is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the College of Staten Island. She is also a member of Nodutdol, a progressive NYC-based community organization, working for peace and justice on the Korean peninsula and beyond. 

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Jung, Hyunjoo

Associate professor, Institute of Humanities, Seoul National University

“Constructing Kijichon as Sexualized Exceptional Space”

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Lee  Seung-Ook

Assistant Professor, School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology

“Geopolitical Economy of the US military camptowns in South Korea”

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Paek Yil-soon

Research Fellow, Center for Asian Cities, Seoul National University Asia Center

“How should the Camptown be remembered? : Focusing on urban regeration program of Yongjugol”

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Chi Sang-Hyun

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Kyung Hee University

“US Presence in Korea, the Declaration of US hegemonic world”

Kyungtae Park

Kyungtae Park graduated from Dongguk University as a Sociology major. In 2002, he made a documentary film “Me and the Owl” (2003) about camptown women and  “There is” (2005), a film about mixed-race Koreans at camptowns. He wrote a master’s thesis about the relationship between Amerasians and their mothers. Since then, his film “Tour of Duty, 거미의 땅” (2012) won awards at several film festivals and achieved success in experimental documentary film formats. He is currently working on an archive movie related to camptowns, and a movie about the memory of a woman who leaves to look for her daughter. He is working on a doctoral thesis in film theory in graduate school.



Conference Background

The initial conference was held in Berkeley, California through the Center for Korean Studies at the University of California in 2015.  At the inaugural conference, several mixed Korean adoptees had not had opportunities to return to Korea since their forced departure. Since then, Me & Korea has offered a series of return tours, making this 2018 conference unique and timely with a return tour of mixed Korean adoptees and the opening of the memorial site for Korean adoptees and their families, Omma Poom in Paju City at the former Camp Howze US military base.