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On the Move for Love
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On the Move for Love
Migrant Entertainers and the U.S. Military in South Korea

Sealing Cheng

304 pages | 6 x 9 | 8 illus.
Paper 2013 | ISBN 9780812222777 | $32.50s | Outside the Americas £24.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
View table of contents and excerpt

Winner of the 2012 Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association, Sociology of Sexualities Section

"One of the best, most nuanced books I have read on militarized prostitution and sex trafficking. . . . Sealing Cheng successfully contrasts the thought-provoking individual stories of Filipino entertainers in South Korea (and their motives, resistance, and experiences) with the structural, rhetorical, and sometimes well-meaning impediments to migration, security, and a better life."—Meredith Ralston, Human Rights Quarterly

"On the Move for Love vividly captures the intimate dialogues, rigorously challenges the established conceptual frameworks, and powerfully demonstrates the complexity of the lives of women who continuously hope for a better future. . . . A welcome addition to the field."—American Anthropologist

"Cheng has struck the perfect balance between depicting the exploitation, pain, frustration, and sorrow experienced by the women in gijichon and the experiences that illustrate women's choices, hopes, strategies, good humor, and overall humanity."—Nicole Constable, University of Pittsburgh

"A head-spinning, richly detailed, and fiercely original account of migrant Filipina entertainers in Korea. Sealing Cheng's rich ethnography captures migrant subjects who are also desiring subjects; romance as a mode of agency; and "projects of aspiration" as well as 'projects of need.' Deft and nuanced, embracing contradiction, and brave in honoring Filipinas' "dreams of flight", this book is absorbing, moving, and a great read. Destined to become a classic in gender/sexuality studies, migration, ethnography, and global South courses."—Carole S. Vance, Columbia University

Since the Korean War, gijichon—U.S. military camp towns—have been fixtures in South Korea. The most popular entertainment venues in gijichon are clubs, attracting military clientele with duty-free alcohol, music, shows, and women entertainers. In the 1990s, South Korea's rapid economic advancement, combined with the stigma and low pay attached to this work, led to a shortage of Korean women willing to serve American soldiers. Club owners brought in cheap labor, predominantly from the Philippines and ex-Soviet states, to fill the vacancies left by Korean women. The increasing presence of foreign workers has precipitated new conversations about modernity, nationalism, ethnicity, and human rights in South Korea. International NGOs, feminists, and media reports have identified women migrant entertainers as "victims of sex trafficking," insisting that their plight is one of forced prostitution.

Are women who travel to work in such clubs victims of trafficking, sex slaves, or simply migrant women? How do these women understand their own experiences? Is antitrafficking activism helpful in protecting them? In On the Move for Love, Sealing Cheng attempts to answer these questions by following the lives of migrant Filipina entertainers working in various gijichon clubs. Focusing on their aspirations for love and a better future, Cheng's ethnography illuminates the complex relationships these women form with their employers, customer-boyfriends, and families. She offers an insightful critique of antitrafficking discourses, pointing to the inadequacy of recognizing women only as victims and ignoring their agency and aspirations. Cheng analyzes the women's experience in South Korea in relation to their subsequent journeys to other countries, providing a diachronic look at the way migrant issues of work, sex, and love fit within the larger context of transnationalism, identity, and global hierarchies of inequality.

Sealing Cheng is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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