It took me a while to build up the courage to reflect on this book. Fox Girl by Nora Okja was so beautifully written, but so incredibly heart-breaking.
When I imagine Korea, I think of vast oceans, development, music, idols, and industry. I don’t imagine a country that has been forever altered by a war, I don’t imagine the American military. I’m glad I remember Korea for those things instead of the latter, but why do we only imagine certain countries like Vietnam as “war torn”.
In class we discussed the act of choosing what to remember rather than “forgetting”. Forgetting implies accident and no intentions to do something. Can we really say that America has forgotten certain things? I think of the Japanese Internment and how America has specifically chosen to leave that out of so many history books. I think of how Hawai’i was forcibly taken from the Natives but has been written off as “ceded”. People have not forgotten these things, but knowingly chosen not to remember them.
Fox Girl, reminds us of the things that have been chosen not to remember about America’s military presence in Korea. Many Asian countries have been criticized for their sex-industries, but to criticize the countries requires one to acknowledge America’s part into creating those industries. Fox Girl allows us to see why prostitution and sex-trafficking was and continues to be so prevalent in South Korea. The country was suffering because of the war and with the military presence, the sex industry began to take roots. In a sick and twisted way, the system has been cited as the savior of the economy in South Korea, now with 94 million cases of prostitution occur every year, bringing in more than a $13 billion a year (Eddie Byun). Fox Girl was hard to read, not just because of the sexual violence, but because the story showed how the US military began to create a condition where the country could not survive without it. When Hyun Jin was disowned and Sookie left for the Monkey House, she had no where to go but to the Lobetto and the brothels. And even though, Hyun Jin did eventually escape the industry, it was clear that not everyone was so lucky. Sookie, stuck in the industry since the young age of eight, was stuck and knew she could not escape. Ultimately, deciding to never leave. A never-ending cycle of trauma.
Korea isn’t remembered as a “war zone”, but Fox Girl depicts a time when the country was one. It may not currently be the same “war zone” it was during Fox Girl, however, the residual effects of the war are still very much present.