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Return to China or Taiwan?: The Korean War Hijacked by Prisoners

Return to China or Taiwan?: The Korean War Hijacked by Prisoners
1 Devonshire Place, Room 108N, Munk School of Global Affairs
Time: Mar 15th, 2:00 pm End: Mar 15th, 4:00 pm
Interest Categories: History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), East Asian Studies (FAS), 2000-, 1950-2000, 1900-1950
Talk by David Cheng Chang

The Asian Institute presents

Return to China or Taiwan?: The Korean War Hijacked by Prisoners

The Korean War was in fact two wars: the first was fought over territory from June 1950 to June 1951; the second was over prisoners, especially the Chinese prisoners wishing to “return to Taiwan,” from late 1951 to July 1953. While the first war restored territorial status quo ante, the second war’s only visible outcome was the “defection” of 14,220 Chinese prisoners to Taiwan and 7,574 North Korean prisoners to South Korea—at the cost of doubling the length of the war and numerous casualties on all sides. Contrary to the Communist allegation of an American conspiracy, this outcome was unplanned. Two separately conceived U.S. policies—prisoner reindoctrination and voluntary repatriation—became intertwined and resulted in the rise of anti-Communist prisoners, who soon hijacked the war agenda. The U.S. government became hostage to its own moralistic but ultimately hypocritical policy and to prisoners—a reality so embarrassing that it has remained largely unknown to the American people. Using archival documents and oral histories, this talk will examine the interplay between policies and prisoners’ actions. It will also chart the extraordinary experiences of several prisoner leaders.

Speaker Bio:

David Cheng Chang (??) is an Assistant Professor of History at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He received his Ph.D. in modern Chinese history from the University of California, San Diego in 2011. He studies the Korean War, the Cold War, U.S.-China relations, and the history of war photography.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is required. For further information, please contact Eileen Lam at 416-946-8918


Main Sponsor

Munk School of Global Affairs


Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Toronto


Dr. David Chu Community Network in Asia Pacific Studies

Asian Institute

East Asian Seminar Series at the Asian Institute

Centre for the Study of Korea

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