The Korean War through the Prism of the Interrogation Room


Thursday, October 31, 2019, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA 02138

Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs
10.31 KKF Poster

Monica Kim
Assistant Professor of History, New York University

Monica Kim is Assistant Professor in U.S. and the World History in the Department of History at New York University. Her book, The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History (Princeton University Press, 2019), is a trans-Pacific history of decolonization told through the experiences of two generations of people creating and navigating military interrogation rooms of the Korean War. She has published work in journals such as Critical Asian Studies and positions: asia critique concerning U.S. empire, war-making, and decolonization. She is also a member of the Editorial Collective for Radical History Review. Her research and writing have been supported by fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, the Wolf Humanities Center at University of Pennsylvania, and the Korea Foundation.

Chaired by Nicholas Harkness, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

Through the interrogation rooms of the Korean War, this talk demonstrates how the individual human subject became both the terrain and the jus ad bellum for this critical U.S. war of ‘intervention’ in postcolonial Korea. In 1952, with the US introduction of voluntary POW repatriation proposal at Panmunjom, the interrogation room and the POW became a flashpoint for an international controversy ultimately about postcolonial sovereignty and political recognition.  

The ambitions of empire, revolution and non-alignment converged upon this intimate encounter of military warfare: the interrogator and the interrogated prisoner of war. Which state could supposedly reinvent the most intimate power relation between the colonizer and the colonized, to transform the relationship between the state and subject into one of liberation, democracy or freedom? Tracing two generations of people across the Pacific as they navigated multiple kinds of interrogation from the 1940s and 1950s, this talk lay outs a landscape of interrogation – a dense network of violence, bureaucracy, and migration – that breaks apart the usual temporal bounds of the Korean War as a discrete event.

The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.