The Korean Conflict: The Forgotten War 1950-1953
Origins• Korea was invaded and ruled by Japan from 1910 until 1945• After WWII, Korea was split into two- North(USSR) and South(US) at the 38th parallel• An election would be held to eventually unify Korea
• The United Nations held an election in 1948.• The Soviet Union refused to allow participation in the election in their occupied zone.• Instead, they handed over power to the North Korean Communist Party under Kim IL-Sung.• The South elected the nationalist exile Syngman Rhee.• Some observers considered the elections unfair and fixed.
• US government stated in January ,1950 that Korea was “outside of our defense perimeter”. What does this mean?• This encouraged North Korea to be aggressive.• South Korean President Syngman Rhee and North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung were each intent on reuniting Korea under their own systems.• Because of Soviet support, the North Koreans were the ones able to go on the offensive, while South Korea, with only limited American backing, had far fewer options.
• The Peoples Republic of China was wary of a war in Korea.• Mao Zedong was concerned that it would encourage American intervention in Asia.• Before Kim invaded South Korea, he sought permission from Stalin.• Stalin approved of the idea of a united Korea, while saying that he could not give the go-ahead.• Kim needed to gain Maos approval. Kim led Mao to believe that Stalin was fully behind war against the south.• When Mao seemed as if he supported the idea, Kim attacked.
The War Begins• On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded the South.• Using Soviet equipment and with huge reserves of manpower, their surprise attack was a crushing success.• Within days South Korean forces were in full retreat.• Seoul was captured by the North Koreans in early July.• Eventually the South Korean forces, and the small number of Americans in Korea, were driven into a small area in the far South around the city of Pusan.• With the aid of American supplies and air support the South Korean forces managed to stabilize this area.• Although more UN support arrived it looked as though the North could gain control of the entire peninsula.
• The invasion of South Korea (Republic of Korea, ROK) came as a complete surprise to the United States.• On hearing of the invasion, Truman agreed to use U.S. airstrikes against the North Korean forces.• General Douglass MacArthur was put in charge of American forces in the Pacific.
• Following the discovery of North Korean army units posing as civilian refugees, it became the military policy of the US armed forces to shoot at approaching civilian refugees in South Korea.• An example of this policy enacted was the massacre of hundreds of mostly women and children civilians at No Gun Ri.• Similar massacres took place across South Korea.• President Truman had to prove that he was “tough on communism” since he lost China.
United Nations Police Action• United Nations Security Council voted to send troops to help South Korea.• US, Great Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union were permanent members that could veto the “police action”.• Why didn’t the USSR and/or China veto this proposal?
UN Forces vs. Communist Forces• US, South Korea, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, South , Turkey, Thailand, Greece, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, Colombia, the Philippines, Belgium, and Luxembourg• North Korea, Soviet Union, China
Troop Strengths• Peak strength for the UNC was 932,964 on July 27, 1953 -- the day the Armistice Agreement was signed:• Republic of Korea 590,911• Columbia 1,068• United States 302,483• Belgium 900• United Kingdom 14,198• South Africa 826• Canada 6,146• The Netherlands 819• Turkey 5,453• Luxembourg 44• Australia 2,282• Philippines 1,496• New Zealand 1,385• Thailand 1,204• Ethiopia 1,271• Greece 1,263• France 1,119
UN Attacks• In order to take pressure off of the Pusan Perimeter, MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing far behind the North Korean troops at Inchon.• United Nations troops landed at Inchon and faced only mild resistance and quickly moved to recapture Seoul.• The North Koreans, finding their supply lines cut, began a rapid retreat northwards from the Pusan Perimeter.• UN and S.K. forces drive northward from the Pusan Perimeter to unite with the Inchon troops.• The United Nations troops drove the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel.
• The goal of saving South Korea had been achieved, but because of the success and the prospect of uniting all of Korea, the Americans decided to continue into North Korea.• This greatly concerned the Chinese, who worried that the UN forces might not stop at the end of North Korea.• Many in the west, including General MacArthur, thought that spreading the war to China was a good idea.• However, Truman and the other leaders disagreed.• MacArthur was ordered to be very cautious when approaching the Chinese border.• Eventually, MacArthur disregarded these concerns.
China Retaliates• The Communist Chinese said they would react if the UN forces encroached upon the border at the Yalu River.• Mao wanted Soviet help and saw intervention as defensive: "If we allow the U.S. to occupy all of Korea… we must be prepared for the US to declare… war with China", he told Stalin.• Mao’s forces invaded North Korea on October 19th.• Soviet assistance was limited to providing air support for the Chinese.• The Soviet role was known to the U.S. but they kept quiet to avoid any international and potential nuclear incidents.
• 380,000 Chinese troops pushed the United Nation troops back to the 38th parallel, the pre- conflict border.• The Chinese assault caught U.S. troops by surprise, as war between China and the United States had not been declared.• On January 4, 1951, Communist Chinese and North Korean forces captured Seoul.• The situation was such that MacArthur mentioned that atomic weapons might be used, much to the alarm of Americas allies.• In March, 1951, UN Forces succeeded in repelling the North Korean and Chinese troops from Seoul.
MacArthur Removed• MacArthur was removed from command by President Truman on April 11, 1951.• Why?• MacArthur was succeeded by General Matthew Ridgeway.• He was able to slowly drive back the enemy to the 38th parallel.
• The rest of the war involved little territory change and lengthy peace negotiations.• Even during the peace negotiations combat continued.• For the South Korean and allied forces the goal was to recapture all of what had been South Korea.• Eventually a cease-fire was established on July 27th, 1953 near the 38th parallel.• A demilitarized zone (DMZ) was established around it, which is still defended today by North Korean troops on one side and South Korean and American troops on the other.• Newly-elected U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower fulfilled a campaign promise by going to Korea to find out what could be done to end the conflict.• No peace treaty has been signed to date.
Results/Outcomes/Casualties• The Korean War was the first armed confrontation of the Cold War, and it set a model for many later conflicts.• It created the idea of a limited war, where the two superpowers would/could fight without using nuclear weapons.• It also expanded the Cold War, which to that point had mostly been concerned with Europe.• The total number of deaths, including all civilians and military soldiers from UN Nations and China, was about 2,000,000.• US had 54,000 deaths.
• More than 80% of the industrial and public facilities and transportation networks, three- quarters of the government offices, and one-half of the houses were destroyed.• Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) was bombarded with more than one thousand bombs per square kilometer.• When the armistice was settled, there were only two buildings left in the city where 400,000 people had lived.• The war left the peninsula permanently divided with a pro-Soviet, Communist party led state in North Korea and a pro-American capitalist one in the South.• American troops remain on the border today, as do a large number of Koreans. It is the most heavily defended border in the world.
Korea Today• President Bush has said that North Korea is part of the “Axis of Evil”.• In 2002, North Korea admitted to having nuclear weapons.• North Korea refused to quit their nuclear program until 2007 as they said they need it to protect themselves from the US. They have recently agreed to stop producing weapons in exchange for food and other goods.• As of April, 2008, this deal has not actually happened yet. Relations between North and South Korea has recently gotten worse-NK attacked SK- Fall 2010.