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Posted : 2013-07-25 21:37
Updated : 2013-07-25 21:37

Post-war life captured in photos

A boy observes the destruction while chewing something. This photo was taken in Daegu, with the exact date unknown. Photographer Jaroslav komarek worked as an intelligence officer.

Alex Svamberk
By Kim Se-jeong

The Korea Times together with the Czech Embassy present rare images taken between 1953 and 1956 on the Korean Peninsula by Czechoslovak members who were part of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.

The photos published here and that will be presented Saturday were selectively chosen out of 5,000 for this coverage.

The NNSC was composed of four countries — Czechoslovakia and Poland appointed by China and North Korea; and Switzerland and Sweden by the United Nations.

Two men observe Chinese People's Volunteer Army who are being
transported by rail in Manpo in North Korea. This photo was taken in 1954 by Jaromir Svamberk who worked as an interpreter.

The NNSC's mission was to conduct inspections and investigations to ensure compliance with the implementation of the provisions of the Armistice which prohibited reinforcements or new armament.


The three-year long Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, with the Armistice Agreement not a Peace Treaty.

The total number of Czechoslovak members of the NNSC was 600, half of which were stationed between 1953 and 1954.

This photo taken in 1954 describes two North Korean and Chinese soldiers in front of a destroyed church building in Cheongjin in the North. Photographer Jaroslav Schystal was a motorcycle courier.

Alex Svamberk, 52, is the man behind the collection of the photos.


Svamberk took up the project in 2007 under the sponsorship of the Czech Foreign Ministry to find surviving Czech members of the NNSC and to collect their memories. It took 16 months to complete the project.

People march on the May Day parade in 1955 in Gaeseong in the North, carrying portraits of communist leaders. Photographer Jaroslav Komarek was an intelligence officer.

"The most difficult thing was to find people and open their hearts (to talk)," Svamberk said during an interview with The Korea Times. He used his father Jaromir who was a member of the NNSC as a way to approach people, which proved to be very helpful. His father spent one year on the border between 1954 and 1955, and worked as an interpreter for the Czechoslovak contingent. Despite visiting 60 members of the contingent individually, only 30 of them were able to donate their photos.


In each visit, he had a typist with him, transcribing the interview. He also had a lawyer in his team who gave legal counsel and assistance in taking in their donations.

This photo taken in 1954 describes two females at the U.S. Army base in
Incheon. Photographer Jaroslav Keil was an interpreter.

The quality of the photos varied, and Svamberk himself restored the photos with damages. Some of the items donated included diaries, short films and uniforms.


Working as a journalist and a musician, Svamberk is currently visiting Korea. He presented a selection of the photos he collected to members of the Royal Asiatic Society in mid July.

And a photo book will be published by Seoul Museum of History in August.


This undated picture taken in Manpo in North Korea captures two girls looking at thethe Chinese People's Volunteer Army leaving the town. Jaromir Svamberk is the photographer, and he worked as an interpreter for the Czechoslovak contingent.



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