Photo courtesy of Edward Jędral

Contested Institution, Państwowy Ośrodek Wychowawczy* no. 2 (POW no.2):
The Identity Formation of North Korean War Orphans in Transnational Educational Exchange

More than 100,000 children from both North and South Korea were orphaned during the Korean War. In 1953, the North Korean government dispatched 1,200 orphans to the People’s Republic of Poland to be educated at Państwowy Ośrodek Wychowawczy* no. 2 (POW no.2), a boarding school transformed into an orphanage.  Under the supervision of North Korean authorities and the Polish government, POW no. 2 provided a bi-lingual (Polish and Korean) and bi-cultural elementary education.  The orphans were repatriated after six years, at the insistence of the North Korean government, as tensions between Pyongyang and its communist allies began to emerge. As letters written back to Poland following their repatriation reveal, the uprooting of these children from their school and adopted community was a traumatizing experience. In the context of transnational identity formation, the North Korean orphans provide a unique case study in exploring the historiography of transnational communist history among different communist countries during the Cold War. This study examines the complicated process of how the orphans defined their identity based on their experience of interacting with their Polish teachers—who became like foster parents—and deploying their subjectivity in the process.

Intaek Hong, North Korea International Documentation Project (NKIDP) Intern, will present his research. The presentation will be moderated by James F. Person.