Mutiny or Revolution on Koje Island?
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 17 | Issue 17 | Number 1 | Sep 01, 2019
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus
The Other Panmunjom: Mutiny or Revolution on Koje Island?
On May 7, 1952—in a twist of events that journalist Murray Schumach of the New York Times would later describe as “the strangest episode of the Korean War”—a group of Korean Communist prisoners of war “kidnapped” US camp commander Brigadier General Francis Dodd of the Koje-do POW camp. Located just off the southern coast of South Korea, the island contained the largest US-controlled camp during the Korean War.1
POW Joo Tek Woon, who was the spokesman elected by the members of Compound 76, had placed multiple, repeated requests to meet with Dodd, and that afternoon, Dodd finally agreed to meet with Joo. They met at the main gate of the compound, the barbed-wire fence between them. A small group of prisoners of war accompanied Joo, and one of them served as a translator. The list of topics to be discussed was lengthy, ranging from mundane complaints about camp logistics to the larger issue of POW repatriation, which was the last remaining subject of debate at the ceasefire negotiations taking place in the village of Panmunjom.
During this meeting, the gate opened to let a large truck carrying several tons’ worth of tents through. One of the POWs, Song Mo Jin, a large man of considerable strength, walked slowly through the gate, waited until Dodd put away the piece of wood he was whittling, stretched his arms as he pretended to yawn, and then grabbed Dodd. The POWs literally carried Dodd into the compound, closing the barbed-wire fence behind him. Soon, the POWs unfurled a large sign, approximately twentyfive feet long and three feet wide, over the main compound building. The following message in English had been painted on the banner: “We have captured Dodd. He will not be harmed if PW problems are resolved. If you shoot, his life will be in danger.”2