Prisoner Becomes King

What could be more terrifying than being a POW during World War II in a Japanese camp? King Rat is set in Changi, a Japanese POW camp in Singapore. The most fascinating aspect of this story is that there is a hierarchy among the prisoners, and one man, an American corporal, reigns as “King.” King is able to establish relationships with camp guards, local villagers, and fellow prisoners to create a trade system, a black market. King has the capability to trade or buy extra food or rations, and obtain a few luxury goods people ask for. As any King does, he has many people in the camp who work for him. These men provide information about happenings in the camp, subversives, and intelligence about goods. The society he creates within the prison is so complex that he has a system for paying his workers based on merit. King is the unofficial leader of the camp, as it seems even almost every guard is on his payroll, until the day the Japanese are defeated and King is faced with the reality of being simply a corporal in the United States Army. But you have to wonder, how does a prisoner become King of the whole camp?

Featured here is a scene from the movie based on the book. King has meat, which is contraband, that he shares with some of his friends.

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