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Psychiatric Casualties during the Korean War: Focusing on American and Common Wealth Soldiers

 In-Sok Yeo 
 Korean Journal of Medical History (의사학), Vol.32(3) : 865-889, 2023-12 
Journal Title
Korean Journal of Medical History(의사학)
Issue Date
Humans ; Korean War ; Military Personnel* / history ; Psychiatry* ; United States ; Veterans* ; World War II
Combat Fatigue ; Korean War ; Prisoners of War ; Psychiatry ; Brainwashing
A crucial gap in the medical history of the Korean War is the history of psychiatry during the Korean War. War puts those who participate in it through physical and mental extremes, inflicting not only physical injuries but also psychological trauma and damage. However, studies of the medical aspects of the Korean War have been limited to topics related to physical injuries and their treatment, and there are no studies that systematically summarize the traumatic effects on the human mind thrown into the midst of the war, the consequences of these effects, and the medical efforts made to deal with these problems. As the Korean War was fought only five years after the end of the Second World War, the experiences and achievements of the Second World War were used in the Korean War. In terms of personnel, many of the soldiers who fought in the Second World War also fought in the Korean War. This continuity with the Second World War had both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, treatment and transport systems were quickly put in place to respond to the large numbers of soldiers with psychiatric problems on the front lines early in the war. This is an example of a positive use of the legacy of the Second World War. On the other hand, the negative side of the coin was the much higher frequency of psychiatric symptoms among veterans of the Second World War. This could be explained by the fact that the psychological trauma experienced on the battlefield during the Second World War remained latent and was reactivated in the Korean War as a kind of conditioned reflex. In addition, the brainwashing of prisoners of war and their subsequent psychological problems are also characteristic of the Korean War in the context of the Cold War. These psychiatric features of the Korean War will provide a useful historical example for understanding and helping those who are inevitably involved in war and suffer from mental distress.
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1. College of Medicine (의과대학) > Dept. of Medical Humanities and Social Sciences (인문사회의학교실) > 1. Journal Papers
Yonsei Authors
Yeo, In Sok(여인석) ORCID logo https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8503-0222
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