How did the US military acquire authority to carry out mass civilian displacements in order to establish military bases? This paper reveals that the US military base system that still exists today is not the product of a wartime agreement related to land requisitioning, but the product of unilateral action taken by the US military during the war that was, paradoxically, dependent on a certain notion of Korean sovereignty in the south. This research also establishes a foundation upon which to analyze how long cycles of military and real estate dispossession can be traced--especially in light of the fact that local governments are now forced to re-purchase the very same lands that were taken during the war at going prices.
This paper, co-authored with anthropologist Beth Geglia (equal authorship), is based on transnational research in Honduras and South Korea. Rather than theorizing urban economic zones as a coherent mobile policy object proliferating in a world of neoliberal globalization, we propose a conceptualization of contemporary urban economic zones as a traveling spatial ideology. The political project of representation--comprised of spectacle and fantasy on one hand, and the erasures and exclusions of abstraction on the other--is a crucial precursor to the material transformations of land dispossession and the re-ordering of space.
By deregulating land use in Pyeongtaek and promising support for a number of major urban projects, the central government sought to build support for US expansion in the city and re‐cast militarization as a desirable form of ‘international city’ development. Haunted by the specter of gritty soldier‐entertainment ‘camp town’ areas and eager to see urban growth, the city government joined with the central government in constructing Pyeongtaek’s new urban vision. However, new projects intended as a form of collective compensation displaced thousands and sparked new protest movements.
This paper explains how Moon Jae-in shifted his position from anti-THAAD to pro-THAAD after assuming the presidency of South Korea. It also documents anti-THAAD activist strategies in blocking THAAD deployment in 2017. It is based on embedded fieldwork and on Korean-language newspaper sources.
South Korea has long leveraged a major asset in support of the alliance that is rarely considered by analysts: the country’s land. The US military base network in South Korea was largely established through mass, uncompensated civilian expropriation during the Korean War. Recently, dozens of sites previously acquired by the US military were transferred back to South Korean control. While it might appear that South Korea’s land burden is relieved through mass US military land releases, in fact the opposite is the case. Land is no longer mainly valued as a strategic or spatial asset. Rendered as real estate, land now also serves as a medium through which public and private funds can be extracted and then funneled into accounts funding the US-South Korea alliance. This ongoing research, started in Summer 2021, is a team project that maps and quantitatively assess the extent to which decommissioned US military bases are sold off by the South Korean state as real estate assets in order to fund South Korean burden-sharing commitments to the US military.
Using South Korea as a case study, my book project draws on archival, ethnographic, and quantitative analysis to chart a distinct shift in the nature of US military territoriality in the neoliberal era. No longer does land power mean only the projection of force from a point in space. In the South Korean case, American land power also means the US treatment of Korean lands as a real estate commodity. The book uncovers hidden histories of dispossession while challenging and revising theories of sovereignty and of imperial territoriality. It views territory not as space or land accumulated, but as the way in which the relationship between people, land, and political power are configured.