The Long-Forgotten World War II Prisoner of War Camps in Korea

Lecturer: 
Jacco Zwetsloot
Date: 
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Venue: 
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
Admission: 
7,000 won (non-member); free for members

As an (unwilling) part of the Japanese Empire, Korea was involved in World War Two. We have all heard of the conscripts, the forced labor, and the comfort women. However, fighting did not actually occur on Korean soil. Soviet forces arrived in Korea from Manchuria in mid to late August, and US troops made landfall in Incheon on September 8 1945 to receive the Japanese surrender and disarm and demobilize Japan’s military.

One aspect of Korean history during that period that has been forgotten – seemingly by all sides – is the approximately 1,500 Allied Prisoners of War who were held in Korea from September 1942, only a couple of months after the last non-Axis foreign civilians had been forcibly deported from Korea by ship. The first Allies to be imprisoned here were British and Australian troops from the fall of Singapore. They were joined towards the end of the war by American soldiers captured in the Philippines, after they were initially held in the notorious “hell ships,” as well as in Japan. In all, three camps were operated, run by Japanese officers and staffed by Korean conscripts and civilians. A few POWs died, but most were rescued and brought home in September 1945.

Jacco Zwetsloot will give a presentation about these camps and how their locations were recently rediscovered by himself and Matthew Van Volkenburg.

Jacco Zwetsloot describes himself as a “Jacco of all trades, master of some.” In the past year he has worked as a business English teacher, translator, interpreter, simulation facilitator, corporate trainer, documentary cameraman and cataloguer, cultural lecturer, souvenir evaluator, radio commentator, magazine writer, voice actor, researcher, copy editor and tour guide. He is currently seeking a publisher interested in releasing translations of several North Korean comic books. He has a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Korean Studies from Monash University, and has lived in South Korea for over 12 years.

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