With the dynamic duo of Kim Jong-un’s and Donald J. Trump’s recent provocations, it is sobering to realize that the conflict known as the Korean War between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) has so far cost at least 2.5 million people their lives. The war reached international proportions in June 1950 when North Korea, supplied and advised by the Soviet Union, invaded the South. The United Nations, with the U.S. as the principal participant, joined the war on the side of the South Koreans, while the People’s Republic of China came to North Korea’s aid. After more than a million combat casualties had been suffered on both sides, the fighting ended in 1953, with Korea still divided into two hostile states. Negotiations in 1954 produced no further agreement, and the front line has been accepted ever since as the de facto demilitarized boundary between North and South Korea.
During the conflict these U.S./U.N. psyop leaflets were distributed to North Korean troops to encourage the defection from their armies. Some of them did. Most did not. Captured soldiers met a different fate, particularly the Chinese troops that later entered the war. After their release Chinese prisoners of war were treated as traitors and suffered accordingly in disciplinary and work camps, but that’s another story. Prisoners had no choice. Defectors made decisions.
The English translations of these leaflets were distributed on General Douglas MacArthur’s command, prior to President Harry Truman relieving him of his post. They resonate with Korean / American saber rattling back in the news.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →