Theses Doctoral

Foreign Things No Longer Foreign: How South Koreans Ate U.S. Food

Chung, Dajeong

Titled Foreign Things No Longer Foreign: How South Koreans Ate U.S. Food, my research investigates the ways in which surplus American food were familiarized in daily Korean life. When food such as wheat flour and powdered milk was largely alien to their diet before 1945, many Koreans encountered the new American food in free feeding stations, in school lunch programs, and as wages-in-kind by working in public construction programs, ran by varying actors such as the U.S. Operations Missions in Korea, South Korean central and provincial governments, and foreign voluntary agencies. By exploring different channels through which surplus American food was distributed, I argue that political factors were more crucial than economic and cultural aspects in making wheat flour and powdered milk popular in South Korea. The two main political factors were the changing purposes of U.S. foreign food assistance and the South Korean state’s use of the surplus food. The distribution channels of surplus American food tells us about a process of globalization that did not begin with market expansion, and also about the cultural and social transformations born out of these distributions. In addition to feeding the hungry, U.S. food programs funded the joint U.S.-South Korean military build-up against North Korea, and Food for Peace programs also helped building rural villages, reclaiming upland for farming, and establishing oyster and seaweed culture-fields in coastal areas. Instead of opting for development, requiring large capital investment, technological expertise, and machineries, these surplus food programs only used surplus American grains and unskilled Korean labor.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Armstrong, Charles K.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 13, 2015