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

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Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 20172:00PM - 4:00PM108N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Global Taiwan Lecture Series


Lecture Abstract:

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 (常成) 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.


Eileen Lam


David Cheng Chang (常成)
Assistant Professor of History, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Yiching Wu
Associate Professor of Asian Institite and East Asian Studies, University of Toronto

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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