National Geographic Daily News
Two Korean prisoners of war enjoy a cigarette.

Korean prisoners of war smoke cigarettes near the edge of the compound.

Photograph by Robert H. Mosier, U.S. Marine Corps.

Johnna Rizzo

National Geographic News

Published March 15, 2013

North Korea is shaking its fist at the United States and South Korea. Purportedly angered by a joint military exercise involving the latter two countries that began this week, a North Korea state media release has declared the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War “a dead paper.”

Though North Korea is already under UN sanctions for nuclear activity, the country went ahead with another test last month, and has since asserted that it is willing to use nuclear arms against both the U.S. and South Korea.

This official U.S. Marine Corps photo shows a scene from the war ended by the armistice. Taken by Technical Sergeant Robert H. Mosier on November 8, 1951, it entered the National Geographic archives in January 1953. The armistice was signed just a few months later, on July 27.

The notes accompanying the photo contain information about the site of the POW camp. All location information is marked through in red, and the Department of Defense Office of Public Information stamped “No objection to publication on grounds of military security” on January 16, 1953, just above a red stamp reading “AS AMENDED.”

“Prisoner of war comfort,” the amended notes say. “Captured North Korean Prisoners in the 1st Marine Regimental stockade enjoy a cigarette. The stockade is located behind the lines far from the fighting.

“The clothing they have on is the winter uniform for the North Korean Army,” the notes continue. “After interrogation by the Marines, they are sent back to large P.W. camps in rear areas.”

The Geneva Convention, enacted in 1949, outlined how prisoners of war around the world should be treated. General Douglas MacArthur, head of the UN Command and the U.S. Army’s Far East Command at the time, announced that all camps under his governance should heed the convention’s strictures.

By October 31, 1950, the UN Command counted more than 175,000 Korean POWs—a combination of North Korean soldiers and South Korean civilians forced into service with the North Korean army.

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