Picture Stories


7. War again: Korea


In 1950, Magee was dispatched to Japan with the staff writer Stefan Schimanski to compile a story about its cultural highlights. 

En route, they stopped off in Malaya to cover the war there, but found themselves unexpectedly on the edge of a civil war breaking out in South Korea. They reported back to their editor, who ordered them to go on to Korea as war correspondents.

They found the South Korean army and their United Nations allies in retreat, all the way down to Pusan on the southern coast.

Again, it is the casualties of war and its grim aftermath that dominate his pictures: the wounded, dazed soldiers, the crouching Allied prisoners of war victimised by their captors, the women and children fleeing with a few possessions. 

(Later, Bert Hardy’s similar photos of mistreated prisoners of war - this time on the Communist side - caused an uproar, and the resignation of Tom Hopkinson as Picture Post's editor).

  1. https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/south-korean-political-prisoners-at-pusan-korea-original-news-photo/2658730
  2. https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/south-korean-military-policemen-stand-over-a-group-of-south-news-photo/8401053
  3. https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/korean-refugees-during-the-retreat-south-of-us-and-korean-news-photo/2666271

A sudden death

Having completed their assignment, Magee and Schimanski flew to  Tokyo, and were recuperating there when an American PR man offered them places on a plane going back to Korea. Magee refused to leave (some allege that he was involved with a Japanese woman) and stayed put in Tokyo. 

The younger, more impulsive newshound Schimanski insisted on getting on the plane, which exploded over the sea. No one survived.



 Magee with Stefan Schimanski in Korea