Abstract

Military prostitution has been a staple of US–Korea relations since the 1940s, contained in the so-called camptown communities surrounding US military bases in South Korea. But during the 1970s, as the US military steadily reduced its troop presence in Asia, camptowns were thrown into a chaotic state. Facing tremendous social disorder and economic upheaval, establishments that depended upon GI patronage began sending their madams and sex workers to domestic military sites through brokered marriages with US servicemen. These women arrived in the US South, a region housing the vast majority of America’s military. Consequently, southern bases like Fort Bragg in Fayetteville (NC), Fort Campbell in Clarksville (TN), and Fort Hood in Killeen (TX) saw the proliferation of military prostitution, which took form in illicit massage businesses catering to the sexual needs of local troop populations. By the 1980s, the Korean American sex trade would spread from these southern military towns to elsewhere in the United States. Highlighting the transpacific circuits among camptowns in South Korea and military bases in the United States since 1945, this article develops a portrait of the US South as a transnational militarized terrain, the camptown as a transpacific phenomenon, and Korean immigrant community formation as deeply intertwined with the happenings of US militarism abroad. In doing so, it explains how the proliferation of illicit massage businesses witnessed by southern military communities in the 1970s was a transnational outgrowth of military prostitution encouraged by the US military in South Korea.

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