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Hidden History: The 21 Korean War POWs Who Defected to China

The Most Revolutionary Act

They Chose China

Directed by Shui-Bo-Wong (2006)

Film Review

This documentary is about 21 US Korean War POWs who chose not to repatriate to the US when the Korean armistice was signed in 1953. Initially there were 23. The first two returned to the US in the early fifties, where they were court martialed and given 10 and 20 year prison sentences.

For the most part, the US media echoed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s view that the 21 who remained in China were Communist traitors. However in a 1954 interview about their reasons for defecting, most cited their opposition to imperialist wars or to McCarthy’s witch hunt against US political dissidents, which they equated with fascism.

The 21 were also clearly influenced by their extremely positive treatment during their three years in captivity. The Chinese who ran the North Korean POW camps allowed them to have American food, as well as…

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