The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War: The Untold History , by Monica Kim, pub. Princeton University Press, 4 stars Despite hopes in recent months that an end to the Korean war might finally be in sight, nearly 70 years after North Korean troops crossed the frontier with the aim of uniting the peninsula by force, the two sides’ armed forces continue to eye each other warily across the spectacularly poorly named demilitarised zone. Known in the history books as “the forgotten war”, there has been a lot more written about one of the 20th century’s most enduring and intractable conflicts in recent decades. Monica Kim’s new book, The Interrogation Rooms of the Korean War , breaks interesting new ground on an aspect that has been largely overlooked. Tens of thousands of North Korean and Chinese men – and a number of women – found themselves behind barbed wire in South Korean prison camps in the years after fighting broke out in the summer of 1950. Equally, thousands of men fighting under the flag of the United Nations, the vast majority of them American, were captured and held in stockades in North Korea. While Kim’s book touches on the conditions the prisoners endured, its focus is on the ways intelligence officers on both sides tried to glean information from the captives. Their battlefield is not the paddy fields or mountains of the Korean peninsula but dimly lit wooden huts; the probing, the exchanges, and the feints are just as relentless as in battle, though. The book’s strongest passages are those which recount the experiences of prisoners and the intelligence officers charged with obtaining information from them; weaker are the passages dealing with the psychological and philosophical questions of being a prisoner of war and the “new liberal paradigm” the United States tried to introduce in the immediate post-war years as an antidote to imperialism. Some of the most fascinating insights come from the testimony of ethnic Japanese, some of whom had grown up in internment camps in the US during the second world war, who were put to work as interrogators and translators because of their Asian roots. How the Korean peninsula was divided Kim also recounts – in dense detail, and including hand-drawn maps that were a part of the subsequent inquiry – the bizarre capture in May 1952 of Brigadier General Francis Dodd, the commandant of the Koje Island POW camp, by his charges. As Dodd listened to grievances about toothbrushes and socks, a group of prisoners hustled him inside the compound. Held for 78 hours, the officer was reportedly treated well; the incident was seen a propaganda coup for the camp’s North Korean and Chinese inmates, who won concessions in return for his freedom. A good amount of the book is taken up with an examination of whether the POWs on both sides could choose whether to return to their own side at the end of hostilities. The UN side argued that North Korean and Chinese prisoners should be able to decide whether they wanted to stay in the South, a stance the North Korean and Chinese governments opposed. Book review: Infamy - how Japanese Americans came to be interned in war Under pressure from fellow prisoners and their government, the vast majority of North Korean and Chinese POWs went home, some famously discarding, in a final show of defiance, the clothing and shoes they had been given by their captors. Remarkably, 21 US prisoners opted to remain in North Korea or China at the cessation of hostilities, creating new concerns for the military as it began to ship men stateside after years of captivity. Aboard troop ships that took more than two weeks to cross the Pacific, POWs were questioned again and again by interrogators trying to determine whether they had been “brainwashed” in captivity and had become communist sympathisers. Thus the final interrogations of the Korean war were, ironically, of Americans by Americans.