Thesis ID: CBB132540302

Blood of the Nation: Medical Eugenics, Bio-Nationalism, and Identity Formation in Cold War South Korea (2021)


In the decades after the 1948 founding of the Republic of Korea, blood emerged as a powerful coherent for South Korean identity, working across law and science, race and economics, war and peace to produce a biological definition and political concept of Koreanness—in short, a bionational South Korean identity. Despite the centrality of blood to modern Korean identity, the historical processes by which Cold War geopolitics, (post)colonial racisms, and socio-scientific serology were collapsed into the powerful collective symbol of a singular ethno-national blood remain under-examined. Korean Studies scholars have noted the persistence of a blood-based discourse of Korean identity, but there has been little investigation into the impact of this pure-blood paradigm on the regulation of Korean bodies. By contrast, “Blood of the Nation” explicitly links symbolic blood discourses to material blood regulations, tracing the development of blood management in Cold War South Korea to illuminate the convergence of local medical need, global scientific exchange, and postcolonial biogovernance in the construction of national identity. Beginning with the introduction of transfusion technologies during the Korean War, South Korean scientists appropriated hematological advances to re-instate colonial-era eugenics policies and define Koreanness in biomedical terms. The Cold War concept of Korean blood that emerged was consequently defined in hierarchical and exclusionary raced, gendered, and classed terms of relative purity based on postcolonial anxieties, military imperatives, and developmental aims. This study tracks the biomedicalization of Korean blood from the Korean War through the authoritarian Yusin system (1950-80), concentrating on the convergence of medico-scientific and state interests in establishing so-called “blood independence” and safe-guarding this national resource from contamination or dilution. Based on diverse archives, it argues that blood functioned as a crucial bridge for reconfiguring the Korean nation from a community imagined through anticolonial cultural symbolism to a bionational body defined through the biological sciences. This historical interrogation of blood-based bionationalism in Cold War South Korea intervenes in Korean Studies scholarship on the discursive colonial origins of modern Korean nationalism and contributes to broader discussions on the intersection of science, technology, and medicine in nation-building and the formation of national identity.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Ong, Aihwa; Chen, Nancy N.; (2011)
Asian Biotech: Ethics and Communities of Fate (/isis/citation/CBB001023125/) unapi

Book Jenny Bangham; (2020)
Blood Relations: Transfusion and the Making of Human Genetics (/isis/citation/CBB189983505/) unapi

Article Buklijas, Tatjana; (2007)
Surgery and National Identity in Late Nineteenth-Century Vienna (/isis/citation/CBB000831417/) unapi

Article Jacqueline Antonovich; (2021)
White Coats, White Hoods: The Medical Politics of the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s America (/isis/citation/CBB549673660/) unapi

Book Stefano Canali; (2012)
Talassemie: Storia medica e scientifica (/isis/citation/CBB455441880/) unapi

Chapter Kravetz, Melissa; (2011)
Promoting Eugenics and Maternalism: Women Doctors and Marriage Counseling in Weimar Germany (/isis/citation/CBB001221549/) unapi

Article Prainsack, Barbara; (2006)
“Negotiating Life”: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel (/isis/citation/CBB000651401/) unapi

Book Rose, Nikolas S.; (2007)
Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century (/isis/citation/CBB000950785/) unapi

Article Cowan, Ruth Schwartz; (2009)
Moving up the Slippery Slope: Mandated Genetic Screening on Cyprus (/isis/citation/CBB001024128/) unapi

Article Aoibheann McLoughlin; (2022)
The Goldwater Rule: A bastion of a bygone era? (/isis/citation/CBB676775470/) unapi

Book Oppenheimer, Gerald M.; Bayer, Ronald; (2007)
Shattered Dreams? An Oral History of the South African AIDS Epidemic (/isis/citation/CBB000930540/) unapi

Book Inrig, Stephen; (2011)
North Carolina and the Problem of AIDS: Advocacy, Politics, and Race in the South (/isis/citation/CBB001550478/) unapi

Article Simonne Horwitz; (2020)
Race, Kidney Transplants, Immunosuppression Research, and White Supremacy under Apartheid, 1960–80 (/isis/citation/CBB697529039/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Braun, Bruce
Taussig, Karen-Sue
Prainsack, Barbara
Buklijas, Tatjana
Vallejo, Gustavo
Oppenheimer, Gerald M.
Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin Canadienne d'Histoire de la Medecine
History of Psychiatry
Social Studies of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Asclepio: Archivo Iberoamericano de Historia de la Medicina
American Journal of Medical Genetics
Oxford University Press
Princeton University Press
Duke University Press
University of North Carolina Press
University of Minnesota
University of Chicago Press
Medicine and politics
Medicine and race
Biology and ethics; bioethics
Medicine and society
Stem cells
Billroth, Theodor
Caroline, Nancy L
Safar, Peter
Samyŏl, Yi
Time Periods
20th century, late
20th century
20th century, early
21st century
19th century
South Korea
South Africa
United States
University of the Witwatersrand

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment