At War in Korea

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As it embodies war, the body must be understood as something more than a representation. As prolific scholar K. War, understood as a set of intersubjective and interactive bodily practices, is regulated by formally distinct codes which vary from one culture to another and give the war its color. This, as it will be argued, presupposes that the embodied nature of war and the bodily issues it encapsulates, like corporal violence, can be disavowed as a result of social and cultural conventions. Once deprived of its relational quality, in other words, the body becomes part of the war machine.

Indeed, as Deleuze and Guattari once affirmed, any State apparatus must capture the body of the soldier and shape it into a war machine. In fact, the evolution of the body seems to be determined not only by the damage war inflicts upon it, but also by an interplay of specific bodily practices, from prewar military training to post-war memorial ceremonies, regulated by the control mechanisms and institutions constitutive of what M. The body, when incorporated to the war machine, negates a part of the corporeal experience of war and limits it to the message the State apparatus wants to vehiculate.

This in turn suggests that the body should be understood as an all-encompassing concept wavering between the different models we introduced. In theory, these models echo J. Propaganda indeed cultivates a certain artistic taste of the bodies of war, regardless of the ideology that produces them in the first place though they reflect different ideologies in the end. Emerson put it , nations or groups of nations can thus be embodied, just as the soldiers and the civilians em body different aspects of the same war.

Yet all have in common that nations were embodied by, at least, one body, preferably a soldier but not exclusively. Conversely, enemy bodies tended to be vulgarized to the extreme. While North Korea made—and still makes—posters to suggest the violence committed by or against 12 American invaders, the South tended to appeal directly to the enemy and referred to the common experience of the front to convey their political ideas.

Soldiers were thus to abide by a Just War doctrine they were supposed to embody to make American participation to the conflict legitimate. Among these were pictures that broke with the usual depictions of the war as they showed handfuls of wounded soldiers, sometimes even carrying improved machine guns as they were ill-equipped, as well as corpses piled away in a truck. Instead of pride, power and freedom, their bodies suggested pain, sorrow, powerlessness or even death only the boots of dead American privates were shown. Despite such restrictions, S.

This dehumanizing inclination is reflected in shots showing disembodied legs running, thereby obfuscating or disfiguring the aesthetic characteristics of the war body and leaving only a biological and powerless body instead, a form without content. The film shows privates of different nationalities evoking their living conditions on the battlefield, a means that Fuller used to share his own war experience during the Second World War.


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His film employed many actors but only a handful among them were credited. In full gear, during the night, they are barely recognizable, perhaps to make them more like ordinary, unexperienced people and bring their vulnerability into the open. What makes the movie even more compelling, however, is how the bodies of soldiers become like narratives, moving away from an action-based depiction of war to start asking questions about it.

What is interesting here is that the soldier makes explicit his realization that he and his brothers-in-arms are war machines, but the very realization also suggests that he is not ready to be like that, a feeling that anyone can relate to.


  • Park Jongwoo’s best photograph: unearthing bodies in Korea's DMZ | Art and design | The Guardian;
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  • Private 1: They told me it was going to be a police action. Ramirez: Tell me, Sarge, why were we picked for this job? Well, what are we, skimmed milk? As the soldiers are turned into discursive manifestations of that response, they allegedly become textual bodies or, to extend the metaphor, like pieces of testimonial evidence framed by a specific historical and historiographic discourse which will determine the way the frames should be read to make sense as representations. Indeed, it is precisely because the movie asked questions about the war that it was considered subversive. In retrospect, moreover, their narrative has become part of the corpus of war in textual terms.

    Such scripted bodies, it must be said, are not limited to fiction. The hearings compiled the testimonies of veterans focusing on Communist war crimes only. The corporal mistreatment of POWs was regularly emphasized as the testimonies described the physical abuse and torture inflicted on US soldiers.

    Although it was quickly dismissed as war propaganda, the report was entitled Out of Their Own Mouths and focused on the corporal violence inflicted on Korean locals by the soldiers, like the collective rape of a thirteen-year old, native civilians who were buried alive, napalmed bodies, the frequent bombing of non-military personnel, mass graves etc.

    There were three or more ditches in which a mass heap of dead bodies was strewn about. In this part, it will be compelling to analyze why the bodies of war did more than simply serve propagandist purposes on both sides. By shaping the bodies of memory, the bodies of war also determined its historiography and coincidently gave new life to oral histories either supporting or rejecting it.

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    Indeed, it will be argued that, through the staging of the bodies of memory, the legacy of testimonies and the memory of historical events—what P. The staging of bodies of memory through the process of memorialization and rememoration Nora implies that the meanings that the bodies of war convey are produced and reproduced during collective acts of remembrance. Many of these bodies of memory were produced to fit into the design of war memorials.

    Nora Although they all have in common that they depicted the lived experience of war, the way they were staged may also differ considerably from one state to another, reflecting a divided body of nations with different local concerns and, to some extent, different visions of the events. As pointed out earlier, most architects chose the nylon twill hooded ponchos soldiers used in the winter to illustrate the Korean War. The statues were made with more or less sophisticated combat boots, perhaps to symbolize the unpreparedness of US soldiers as realistically as possible.

    Yet they all seem to have privileged an arguably informative and factual approach in their respective designs, with some significant exceptions. When the project was voted, it was decided that the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, like many other memorials, would incorporate the figures of both total US and UN deaths, though there were little discrepancies in the exact number of deaths. Instead, the ghostly figures in the Wall of Remembrance stand for the forgotten ones, including women and religious minorities like Jews.

    Interestingly, each panel contains part of a narrative of the conflict, with a short section about the pre-war context.

    US suspends effort to retrieve war dead from North Korea

    What the whole narrative does not indicate, as it reduces the war to informative speech Barthes , is how they were killed, who took their lives or how those who witnessed, and perhaps even caused, these deaths live d with the trauma on both sides. As new dead bodies were still unearthed in Korea by the s, different means have been employed to acquiesce the forgotten realities of war, especially after South Korea declassified some archives, including photographs capturing atrocities committed against Korean bodies by the South and endorsed by the US.

    In these paintings, the same propaganda strategies were used—the dehumanized figure of the American soldier suggests his lack of humanity towards the frail bodies of old people, young women and toddlers. It follows that Korean civilian figures who were caught between the controlled body of the US and North Korean soldiers remain unaccounted for in the memorialization of the war.

    This suggests that while some bodies are sacred, others are unfit and perhaps even abject as they defile official historical discourses by shedding new light on aspects of the war that tend to be forgotten, such as war crimes for example. The latter is a derivative trope which infers meaning to the sacrifice of American bodies. For the same reason, in order to represent the free world, the consecration of American bodies of memory was meant to be more inclusive in respect to the diversity of the US population.

    The Korean War was indeed the first that the US fought with a desegregated—or rather desegregating—army. Myrdal that had ever so slightly threatened the international reputation of the US during the Second World War had partly been resolved. To be represented, the Korean body has to be consistent with a given set of discourses and practices to fill the signifying blank left by the symbolic function of war in the creation of identities and boundaries in the post-colonial world.

    If it cannot be consecrated, the Korean body then becomes part of the abject, i. Indeed, not only do wars have strict codes that shape the body, they also become the focus of a broader civilization process Elias that transcends them inexorably. The body proved to be flexible and multidimensional enough a concept to be taken in terms of representations exclusively. Because of its relationality, it clearly raises cultural and historiographic stakes making the understanding of the war phenomenon even more complex because it moves away from traditional paradigms to shift the focus onto the war phenomenon as it was bodily lived and as it was remembered from one country to another.

    It is also essential to understand what separates the Korean War as it happened from its memorialization, commemoration and politicization on both sides of the Pacific.

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    As far as US-Korea relations are concerned, there are numerous political and civic implications to this: insofar as the episteme of war constrains alternative discourses, it simultaneously creates the possibility of its own revocation. As it was recently illustrated by the conjoined twins in T.

    Our Time in Hell: The Korean War

    Collective acts of remembrance reflecting the periodicities of political life on both sides of the Pacific indicate two antagonistic trends. Firstly, it highlights the formation of an international body of collective memories of war but always in opposition to an antibody or a nobody. As they can dehumanize individual bodies to turn them into enemies, these organizational bodies of memory wield power of legitimate violence. As these memories are always the products of a particular historical perception, commemoration endows the disincarnate ghost of the war with a body and shapes it according to specific discursive conventions pulling historic events out of their context and calling into question the cultural peculiarities of all the international actors that it seeks to incorporate into what could be called an exclusive regime of historicity.

    All the references listed below were consulted to write this paper, including some that are not directly cited. In Naval War College Review. Paris: PUF, Barron, Leo. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, Barthes, Roland. Basaure, Mauro. Simon Susen and Bryan S.


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