Lecturer on East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University; 2021-22 SBS Korean Studies Postdoctoral Fellow in the Social Sciences at the Korea Institute, Harvard University
Bridget Martin is a geographer researching the evolution of the role of land in the US-South Korea security alliance from 1945 into the present moment. She has published research articles in journals such as Political Geography and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research and is currently working on a book manuscript on sovereignty, territory, property, and US military dispossessions in South Korea. She holds a PhD in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Arts in Politics from The New School for Social Research.
Chaired by Carter Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University
The US military base network in South Korea was largely established through a series of American land enclosures that displaced thousands of civilians during the Korean War. In the last fifteen years, following a pair of bilateral agreements, the US military has closed dozens of bases in South Korea. While it might appear that recent base closures constitute a reversal of historical dispossessions, they have in fact ushered in new forms of land enclosure that are essential to maintaining US forces on the Korean peninsula. Because South Korea requested several of the US base closures that occurred, according to an agreement with the US, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense now faced the multi-billion dollar burden of providing new facilities to the US military in an alternative location. The Ministry devised a scheme through which it would pay its US military construction burdens by enclosing demilitarized lands and then capturing their real estate value through privatization. These base en/closures perpetuated cycles of land dispossession; led to the deepened neoliberalization of militarized areas; created new taxpayer burdens; and even left some local communities paying market-rate prices to re-purchase lands that were taken from them without compensation during the Korean War. South Korea’s base en/closures point toward the need for a revised framework for interpreting US military bases not as bounded territories but as the products of an active US military territoriality enmeshed in broader landscapes of power.
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Generously supported by the SBS Research Fund at the Korea Institute, Harvard University.