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Making Peace in Korea

Making Peace in Korea

By Benjamin Gladstone, BA, MA

The museum archive collection holds an unique scrapbook assembled by James. F. Doig about the Korean War (1951-1954). The scrapbook was put together after Doig's involvement with the United Nations Military Armistice Commission between July 1953 and June 1954. In 2006, the scrapbook was sent to the museum. The scrapbook includes period photographs, newspaper clippings, cards, tickets, photocopies of news articles, etc., and detailed captions for each image. The exact date when this manuscript was assembled is not know, but it has clearly been created between 1954 and 2006. This story features some of the most interesting and humanizing aspects Doig has captured with his collections of images, documents, and stories.

DATE: after 1954
DONATED BY: James F. Doig
OBJECT ID: RCRM2009.010.0001-0002

Major James F. Doig to Korea

James F. Doig was a Canadian Army officer who served in the conflict with the Royal Canadian Regiment’s 3rd Battalion. Doig was a latecomer, arriving in the theater at the same time the armistice between the belligerants was signed, on 27 July 1953. He spent most of his time there working with the United Nations Military Armistice Commission, an organization attempting to resolve outstanding issues from the war such as the repatriation of the prisoners of war and negotiations between the belligerents to resolve outstanding issues from the conflict. From the voluminous collection of documents, photographs, maps, newspaper clippings, and other images, we have selected a few below.

Korean War Armistice
Agreement between the Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command, on the one hand, and the Supreme Commander of the Korean Peoples' Army and the Commander of the Chinese Peoples' Volunteers, on the other hand, concerning a Military Armistice in Korea

Peace Talks

Peace Talks, 1953

This photo in our archives shows the negotiations table at the end of the combat phase of the Korean War, with the UN command on one side, the Korean's People Army and the Chinese People Volunteer Army on the other. An armistice to cease combat was reached and was signed on 27 July 1953.

International cooperation

As part of his responsibilities, Major Doig spent time working among soldiers from other countries, including the United States, members of the Commonwealth Division, as well as other countries that had participated in the UN intervention in Korea. Doig found himself acting in a quasi-diplomatic role some of the time, including attending events such as a cocktail party thrown by Ethiopian soldiers.

Rest and Recreation

While he found many of these parties tiring, Doig was impressed with the international personnel he encountered and enjoyed the opportunity to interact with people from around the world. He also relished the travel opportunities afforded by his job in Korea, and seemed to particularly enjoy the time spent in transit and for rest in Japan. He used the small map of Tokyo shown below touring around, and a sketch that a hotel employee made of him, depicting his characteristic moustache and glasses. While in Japan, Major Doig had a very pleasant trip to the Tokyo Zoo as we can see in the photograph of the “monkey train”, which, he noticed, the children greatly enjoyed; it seems that he found it very amusing too.


The Korean War was extremely difficult for Korean civilians as well as soldiers. One of the notable features of this conflict was that a great deal of fighting was carried out by non-Koreans on both sides, with the United Nations forces coming from around the world to support South Korea, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army reinforcing North Korea. This led to some interesting propaganda tactics, including UN leaflets being written entirely in Chinese, clearly aimed at Chinese troops serving in the North such as the one pictured here.

Impressions from Korea

One of the issues presented by this state of affairs above-mentioned was that many negative views of Korean people developed during the conflict, no doubt in part because so many were seeing the peninsula and its people for the first time in the midst of a brutal war. These views often portrayed Koreans as "backward" and undeveloped technologically, as seen here in some images published by The Star Weekly (Toronto, January 14, 1956). The Korean farming practices are herein described as “antediluvian” and the author lamenting the difficult lives of Korean farmers. It was also noted how many Korean practices, including some aspects of their manner of dress, such as the hat depicted below, had changed very little over time.

The war exacted an enormous cost on both, soldiers and civilians in Korea. Although there were many harmful stereotypes about Koreans circulating at the time, Major Doig approached the locals with compassion and seemed to understand their circumstances despite barriers posed by language and war.