Monica Kim, The Korean War and East Asia through the Prism of the Interrogation Room

U.S. Marine tank follows a line of prisoners of war down a village street, September 26, 1950. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

The history of the Korean War from inside the interrogation room is at once both surprisingly ordinary and profoundly global. Tracing two generations of people across the Pacific as they navigated multiple kinds of interrogation from the 1940s and 1950s, this talk lays out 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.

But 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 global 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 coloniser and the colonised, to transform the relationship between the state and subject into one of liberation, democracy or freedom?

Speaker biography

Monica Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at New York University. She works in U.S. and global race relations, modern East Asian and Asian American history, and international legal history. Her book, The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History, was published by Princeton University Press. She has held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, and was previously a member of the Institute for Advanced Study.


21 February 2019, 5.00pm - 7.00pm


Sarah Miller-Davenport
Phone: +44 114 222 2599
University of Sheffield staff profile


Alfred Denny Building: Conference Room

The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
South Yorkshire
S10 2TN
United Kingdom