Kinkaseki POW Memorial & Taiwan POW Memorial Park, Jinguashi

Between December 1942 and March 1945, 1,100 Allied Prisoners of War served time at the infamous Kinkaseki camp and copper mine. Compared to the Thai-Burma Railway due to the horrors inflicted on those interned there, the Kinkaseki POW Camp was located on the northeast coast of Taiwan. Arriving on board hellships from Singapore and the Philippines, the groups of men were transported to Kinkaseki and immediately made to work in the most terrible conditions at the nearby Japanese-controlled copper mine.

To get to the mine, the prisoners were made to walk up and down a steep mountain and then a further 1.5 kilometres inside the mine to the worksite. Temperatures reached almost 55 degrees Celsius inside, acidic water dripped from the roof and many of the tunnels were not correctly supported, causing the prisoners to work under the constant fear of collapse. These circumstances were only made worse by the physical torture inflicted on the prisoners when they did not meet their daily quota of copper collection.

Back inside the camp, the prisoners were provided with minimal rations, basic shelter, little to no medical treatment and as a result, left to ward off diseases such as dysentery, pneumonia and diphtheria on their own. Those men who were too sick to work were moved to other camps within Taiwan and replaced by healthier prisoners from incoming hellships or nearby POW camps. By the end of World War II, a total of 430 men had died at Kinkaseki.

In March 1945 the Kinkaseki Copper Mine was closed due to the Allied naval forces sinking a number of Japanese ships that were to transport the copper to Japan for processing. The prisoners remained in the camp on half-rations until May, when they were moved to two other camps further inland. They remained at these camps until the end of the war a few months later. For those who died at Kinkaseki, their bodies were moved soon after the war to Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong.

In 1997, Taiwan’s first POW memorial was erected on the site of the former camp at Kinkaseki. A small committee, consisting mainly of Commonwealth expats, conducted a small memorial service at the unveiling and over the next few months inserted interpretation panels around the memorial site, including on the last remaining gatepost from the original camp.

Encouraged by the public response, the committee evolved into the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society – the organisation responsible for erecting the nine other POW memorials throughout Taiwan. Almost ten years after the original memorial was unveiled at Kinkaseki, a memorial park was also opened on the site. Within the park grounds stands a memorial wall with almost 4,000 POW names listed, a memorial statue of a starved prisoner and a series of information panels for visitors seeking further understanding of the site.

Nearby, the former Kinkaseki Copper Mine Headquarters has been converted into ‘The Museum of Gold’. Although mainly focused on the history of mining in the area, visitors to the museum can learn about the Allied prisoners that once worked in the mine during World War II, as well as enter the remains of the copper mine and view the conditions the prisoners were forced to endure daily.

Each year an official commemorative ceremony is held in November to remember the POWs who worked and died at Kinkaseki as well as the other 14 camps throughout Taiwan.