Organized Panel Session
The Korean War was simultaneously a civil war and an international conflict. The important role played by neutral nations, however, has fallen through the cracks of history as has the story of Chinese and Korean POWs who refused repatriation and sought asylum in neutral countries. After the Korean War armistice, more than 76,000 North Korean POWs returned to the North, and 7,600 stayed in South Korea; 7,110 Chinese POWs returned to Communist China, and some 14,000 went to Nationalist Taiwan. However, 74 North Korean, 2 South Korean, and 12 Chinese POWs opted for neutral nations yet to be determined. After sojourning in India for two years, the majority went to Brazil and Argentina, where they became some of the earliest Chinese and Korean immigrants. This panel restores the agency of these individuals who made this unusual choice, defying Cold War polarities.
Byung Joon Jung investigates the 76 Korean POWs’ complex identities and choices and complicates their highly idealized image as the symbol of neutrality transcending ideological and political divisions. Sunwoo Lee traces a Korean anti-Communist leader’s life from his service in the Japanese, Chinese Communist, and North Korean armies to UN prison camps, and finally to India. Keun-Sik Jung examines the survival strategies of a graduate of Kim Il-Sung University and his journey to Brazil. Focusing on a Chinese POW leader, David C. Chang narrates his flight from Communist persecution, desertion on the battlefield, escape from fellow anti-Communists in POW camps, and finally his business success in Argentina.