A documentary about the Korean War by Thames Television that aired in the Summer of 1988 and in the US in August 1990 through WGBH Boston. Including interviews with participants from both ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Ho-sang An ...
 Minister of Education, South Korea 1945-1948
Keyes Beech ...
 Chicago Daily News correspondent
Valentin Berezhkov ...
 Himself - Former Interpreter to Joseph Stalin
Wilfred Burchett ...
 Himself - 'Ce Soir' Correspondent
Sung-chul Chun ...
 Lt. Gen., North Korean Peoples Army
Bruce Cumings ...
Philippe Daudy ...
 Agence France Presse Correspondent
Anthony Farrar-Hockley ...
 Adjutant - Gloucester Regiment, British Military Historian (as Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley)
 Maj., US Marine Air Wing
Ernest Gross ...
 Himself - US Ambassador to the UN 1949-1953
Bert Hardy ...
 Picture Post photographer
James Hausman ...
 Lt. Col, Korean Military Advisory Group
Gregory Henderson ...
 US Vice Council, Korea 1948-1950
Louis Heren ...
 The Times Correspondent


A documentary about the Korean War by Thames Television that aired in the Summer of 1988 and in the US in August 1990 through WGBH Boston. Including interviews with participants from both the United Nations (USA, UK), South Korea and North Korea, the documentary was fraught with issues concerning content that might "offend" the American received wisdom concerning the war. Written by Mark Lovmo

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July 1988 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


Long-time General and former Deputy Under-secretary of Defense (1981-1985) Richard Stilwell wrote to the PBS flagship, WGBH Boston, to comment on the content of the British version of "Korea-The Unknown War." In a critique dated January 15, 1989, Stilwell stated that "the series, in present form, is not appropriate for an American audience." According to sources at WGBH, Stilwell had scared off the original sponsors from backing the airing of the documentary on PBS, and had effectively dictated changes to the US producer, Austin Hoyt. As a result, the US version was edited of content relating to the bombing campaign in North Korea, any mention of atrocities, the US administration's (and not just MacArthur's) willingness to attack China with atomic weapons, and interviews with North Koreans; including the survivor of a US napalm bombing. See more »

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User Reviews

A comprehensive and thorough television history of the Korean War
31 August 2014 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

"Korea: The Unknown War" was made by Thames Television and was broadcast in the UK in mid-1988, which I suspect was done to coincide with the Seoul Olympics held slightly later that same year. The original UK version was screened in Australia at roughly the same time. What makes this series worthwhile viewing is that it deals with the Korean War from all sides and from most angles. Participants in varying roles and from various countries were interviewed for the series, including from the Communist side. This makes the series particularly interesting as it is not some homogenised, one-sided war documentary series, which too many are, and also allows everyone from all sides to give their own (sometimes propagandist) account of their actions in the war or their view of the war, or some aspect of it.

It proceeds from the Japanese surrender in 1945 to the conclusion of the armistice in July 1953 and in doing so gives a full background of the circumstances of the division of Korea and the origins of the war. It is largely objective and without bias, though one can detect the odd slightly anti-American dig in such exaggerations as 2 million Koreans "probably" died as a result of the U.S. Air Force's bombing of North Korea, which is hardly likely when compared to the Western Allies' ferocious bombing of Germany in the Second World War which killed some 635,000 Germans. Be that as it may, "Korea: The Unknown War" is one of the best documentary series I have seen on any war or military subject and would recommend it to anyone who wants a thorough and comprehensive screen history of this pivotal and bloody mid-twentieth-century conflict.

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