National Museum Of Korean Contemporary History

Special Exhibition

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원본 포스터 다운로드 원본 포스터
Exhibition on Korean War POW Archive


National Museum of Korean Contemporary History 1st Floor Exhibition Hall

Dec. 5th, 2018(Wed) - Jan. 17th, 2019(Thu)

  • Price : Free
  • Hours :10:00 – 18:00
    Opening hours will be extended to nine o’clock in the evening on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
    (Last admission is one hour before the closing time.)
  • For additional inquiries call : +82-02-3703-9200

Opening Special Exhibition

Under the vortex of Cold War, great powers that used to be the Allied Forces during the World War II started to confront each other under the different ideology and political system. The shadow of another Hot War was being cast over the Korean Peninsula, even before its ardent wish to be an independent nation. The Korean War that broke out in 1950 left irrecoverable scars on two Koreas.
The negotiations regarding POWs were contentious and difficult, leading the step for concluding Armistice Agreement to be tardily moved.
The Korean War was the first war for which the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War was applied. Following the characteristics of POWs, classification and reclassification, interrogation and reinterrogation, education and options were given, even horrendous incidents happened continuously in the camps. After concluding the Armistice Agreement, POWs were divided into the returnees, the people who refused to be repatriated, and the POWs who chose neutral nation. However, their hearts had already suffered from the extreme ideological confrontation, violence, and discrimination.
POWs were deadly eager and hopeful for life under such uncertainty of survival. This Exhibition is an opportunity to look back into the Korean Peninsula, yearning for peace-the land known as the last territory of Cold War


Who were the POWs?
There were about one hundred eighty thousand POWs under the UN Forces only during the Korean War. For three years of battles, a significant number of POWs were captured. Combatants took up the vast majority of POWs. However, ‘Volunteer Army,’ who were taken by North Korean Forces when they occupied South Korea, and Partisans, existed before the war, became also POWs. No matter what the reasons were, all detainees to camp were considered as POWs.
To Where POWs were transported?
POWs captured at the battlefield were sent to nearby POWs Collecting Camp. This camp was surrounded by simple barbedwire entanglements. Soon after, from the temporary camp, they were moved to an internment camp. In Geoje and Tongyeong, following the Law of War, residents were dispersed when the regions were chosen for building the camp.
How POWs were managed?
Difficulties of communication and lack of managers caused the problems of gathering basic information about POWs. From the starting point, the administration of the camp tried to organize necessary information in managing them through interrogation, collecting finger prints, and taking photographs. Though such steps were insufficient to collect full information until the repatriation, after several times of interrogations, haircut, and physical examination, POWs were sent to each barrack of the camp.
What kind of Education were given to POWs?
UN Forces established the Civil Information and Education Section(CIE) under the Civil Intelligence Section of SCAP and conducted various kinds of education, including political education(or orientation education), Korean language, woodwork, tincrafts classes from June 1951. Especially, the purpose of political education was making POWs who will be sent back to home country as a guardian of ‘American Liberalism.’
Who were there next to POWs?
In the camp, guards took up the highest numbers. In addition, there were interpreters for interrogation and communication, local residents who worked at the headquarters of the camp, noncombatants members, doctors and nurses, priests and pastors, for POWs and workers. Also, refugees arrived from Heungnam to Geoje Island and stayed together.
What happened in POW Camp?
As complex as their status, composition of POWs (North Korean or Chinese Communist POWs, civilian internees, etc.) were varied. Therefore, camps examined the repatriation of POWs, in such circumstance became the ground for severe violent conflicts among POWs who had different ideological intention.
To Where POWs were sent at the end?
Since April 1953, POWs were repatriated to various places. Five places were set to be the final destinations. Most of the Chinese Communist POWs returned to China or Taiwan, North Korean POWs chose South or North Korea, or neutral nation. The vast majority of UN Forces POWs who were detained in North Korean Camps repatriated to their mother countries, though, only 8,000 South Korean POWs were repatriated. Still, the issue of ‘POWs of Not Returned’ are alive.