Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Korean War in American Feature Films

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Wars have been a significant factor in U.S. involvement in Asia. A study of these wars helps to reveal roots of present day relations with Asia. Once labeled “forgotten,” the Korean War (1950–1953) is a subject of growing interest. Early official histories and scholarly assessments focused on diplomatic, strategic, or tactical aspects, and individual battles within the war. Recent historical debates query whether the war was a civil war, a struggle between two superpowers using Koreans as their proxies, an exercise in collective security, a limited war, or a total war. While these approaches are essential, such accounts often lack the human face, the individual experience through which students might learn about themselves and others. Feature films augment study of the Korean War, its historical context, and its aftermath by inviting vicarious experience, thus engaging affective understanding of the personal and public costs of war.1