The Korean War lasted for three years, one month, and two days-but armistice talks occupied more than two of those years, as 14,000 Chinese prisoners of war refused to return to Communist China, effectively hijacking the negotiations and thwarting the designs of world leaders at a pivotal moment in Cold War history. In The Hijacked War, David Cheng Chang vividly portrays the experiences of Chinese prisoners in the dark, cold, and damp tents of Koje and Cheju islands in Korea and how their decisions derailed the high politics being conducted in the corridors of power in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. The Truman-Acheson administration's policies of voluntary repatriation and prisoner reindoctrination for psychological warfare purposes-the first overt and the second covert-had unintended consequences. The success of the reindoctrination program backfired when anti-Communist Chinese prisoners persuaded fellow Chinese prisoners to renounce their homeland, derailing negotiations between the U.S. and China and changing the course of the Cold War in East Asia. Drawing on newly declassified archival materials from China, Taiwan, and the United States and interviews with surviving Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war, Chang depicts the struggle over prisoner repatriation that dominated the second half of the Korean War, from late 1951 to July 1953, in the prisoners' own words.
David Cheng Chang is Assistant Professor of History at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.