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Meet Susie Woo

American Studies Faculty Member Studies Korean War Era Adoptions, Military Brides

Jan. 15, 2014

Susie Woo

Susie Woo

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When Susie Woo completed her doctorate in American studies at Yale in 2009, her dissertation on Korean War adoptions and military brides earned distinction.
Today, she is completing a revised manuscript on her doctoral research and weaving what she’s learned into the courses she is teaching at Cal State Fullerton.
“Between 1950 and 1965, nearly 15,000 Korean adoptees and military brides entered the United States as the children and wives of predominantly white, middle-class families,” Woo said, adding that her research “traces the roots and routes of this forgotten immigrant group.”

It argues that U.S. servicemen, missionaries and social workers in postwar South Korea “tethered Americans at home to Koreans in sentimental, material and, eventually, familial ways that unraveled the U.S. government’s ability to contain its political objectives ‘over there,’ ” she said. “Private U.S. citizen involvement intimately changed the lives of Korean civilians, transformed South Korea’s welfare system, and challenged U.S. conceptions of race, kinship and nation during the Cold War/civil rights era.”

Woo’s parents survived the Korean War and immigrated to the U.S. after it ended. She grew up in the U.S. and, besides her doctorate, she earned a bachelor’s degree in art history at UC Irvine, a master’s degree in Asian American studies at UCLA, and a certificate in women's, gender and sexuality studies at Yale.

Before joining Cal State Fullerton’s faculty last fall, Woo taught at USC, UCLA, Yale and Loyola Marymount.

She speaks Korean and lives in Pasadena. Besides Korean War era research, Woo also is studying race mixture in the post-World War II era.

“I’m exploring the crossroads of race, intimacy and immigration by examining studies about race mixture made popular by a host of researchers,” Woo said.

“Over the years, I have learned that research and teaching are directly connected. Conversations with students help to refine the ethical objectives of my research, while research helps me identify critical teaching points,” she said. “I am motivated by conversations that make processes of discrimination transparent, support multiple perspectives and seek common ground — all lessons that promote social responsibility.”

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