Tonight I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about Australian immigration, working holidays, and multiculturalism, prompted by the recent, possibly racially-motivated murder of a Korean woman in Brisbane. You can listen live on the radio at 90.5, online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), or via an archived version here later in the week.
Unfortunately(?), there are precious few links to Korean feminism, sexuality, or pop-culture to explore, except perhaps in so far as Australia has become a destination for Korean sex-trafficking. As The Joongang Daily explains, “some data say that about one-sixth of all women providing sex for money in Australia are Korean,” a surge in 2012 “largely attributed to legal loopholes in the working holiday visa system and a lack of administrative monitoring” according to The Korea Times. From experience though, probably there’ll be little time or opportunity to cover that angle, especially as the emphasis will be on racially-motivated attacks.
One personal link however, is that by coincidence my last job was teaching English to and preparing students for working holidays in Brisbane, just like the victim was doing. Teaching them for 4 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, I got to know them very well, and read the recent news with wide-eyed alarm, before remembering that they’ve all long since returned.
Another link is that as a former immigrant there myself, Australian immigration policies and multiculturalism have long been big interests of mine, and I devoured Stephen Castles’ books on the subjects as an undergraduate. Likely, many readers themselves have heard of the White Australia Policy (1901-1973), which figures prominently in Australia’s history. So, in keeping with the themes of this bog, let me pass on an interesting Australian ABC podcast about how its contradictions coalesced in a national “rapture” over Chinese-Amercian Anna May Wong’s visit in the late-1930s. Fascinating in her own right, I’d appreciate any suggestions for how and where to watch her movies:
Anna May Wong was Hollywood’s first Chinese-American star. Her career started in the silent movie era, peaked in the interwar talkies and faded in the early years of television. Racist censorship laws meant she could never be cast as the romantic lead, instead she shone in sinister vamp and villain roles alongside the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks. It’s a little known fact that this icon of Hollywood’s golden age spent three months in Australia on the eve of the Second World War.
Anna May Wong was at a crossroads in her career when she came to Australia to appear on stage as the star attraction in a vaudeville show on the Tivoli circuit, Highlights from Hollywood. She was sick of the typecasting and wanted a chance to reflect on her career at a distance from Hollywood. As it turned out, Australia was her last taste of the high life.
Since Federation, Australian national identity had been formed around the exclusion of the Chinese, but for Anna May Wong the red carpet came out. This feature traces the vivid details of her time in Australia and explores the contradictions of White Australia’s rapture over Anna May Wong.
Naturally, as Koreans’ experiences of racism in Australia will be very different to my own, and as I haven’t actually lived there since 1990 (my father still does; my last visit was in 2008), then during the show itself I’ll be deferring to other guests for most of time, particularly one who has just returned from a working holiday in Australia. Here’s looking forward to learning some new perspectives tonight!