Though sometimes labeled America’s “forgotten war,” the Korean War deserves neither that title nor that fate.
The conflict, which ended 50 years ago this July, was among the most destructive of the 20th century, claiming the lives of approximately 37,000 American soldiers, up to 1 million Chinese combatants and as many as 4 million Korean soldiers and civilians.
On May 8-10, the International Writers Center (IWC) in Arts & Sciences — in conjunction with the Missouri Historical Society — will remember the war with a conference called “The Coldest War in the Cold War: The Blood and Politics of the Korean Conflict, 1950-1953.” Events will include lectures, film screenings and panel discussions with more than two-dozen scholars and veterans from around the country.
Sessions May 8 and May 10 will take place in the Des Lee Auditorium at the Missouri Historical Society in Forest Park. Sessions May 9 will be held in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge.
The May 8 program will include a screening of The Steel Helmet, Sam Fuller’s classic 1951 Korean War drama, and a keynote address by Bruce Cumings, author of The Origins of the Korean War, titled “War Is a Stern Teacher: On the History & Memory of a Civil War.”
May 9 will feature discussions of “The Origins & The Impact of the War” and “The Korean War & The Cold War in America,” as well as two veterans’ panels, one with local veterans and the other addressing “Minority Soldiers & the War.” The day’s program will conclude with a presentation of the film Address Unknown (2001), Kim Ki-Duk’s controversial examination of Korea’s history of Japanese colonialism, civil war and American occupation.
ConferenceWho: International Writers Center in Arts & Sciences, in conjunction with the Missouri Historical SocietyWhat: “The Coldest War in the Cold War: The Blood and Politics of the Korean Conflict, 1950-1953″When: May 8-10Where: May 8 and May 10, Des Lee Auditorium at the Missouri Historical Society in Forest Park; May 9, Women’s Building Formal LoungeAdmission: Free and open to the publicFor more information or a complete schedule, call the International Writers Center at 953-5576 or go online to artsci.wustl.edu/~iwc.The May 10 program will begin with a lecture on “Women’s Narratives of the Korean War” by Chungmoo Choi, author of Dangerous Women: Gender and Korean Nationalism, followed by a panel on “Korean Perspectives of the War” and, that afternoon, the conference’s third veterans’ panel.
The conference will conclude with a keynote address titled “What Did and Does the War Mean?” by William Hammond, senior historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History.
The Korean War looms large with historical importance: It was the first U.N.-sanctioned war; the first war in which the United States deployed integrated combat troops; and the first test of the American policy of containment of communism.
It also was the first “hot” flashpoint of the Cold War and the first (if unofficial) U.S. war with China, as well as the first limited U.S. war of the 20th century and the last American war with a front line.
At home, the Korean War raised concerns about the treatment of American prisoners of war and added the word “brainwash” to our collective vocabulary. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman decided not to run for re-election in large part because of the war’s unpopularity, ultimately costing Democrats the White House.
That the conflict continues to haunt the American consciousness is evidenced by the lasting popularity of films ranging from The Manchurian Candidate to M*A*S*H and a recent spate of books, including Rethinking the Korean War by William Whitney Stueck and China’s Road to the Korean War by Jian Chen.
The conference is free and open to the public. For more information or a complete schedule, call the IWC at 953-5576 or go online to artsci.wustl.edu/~iwc.