The Korean Conflict:
The Forgotten War
• Korea was invaded
and ruled by Japan
from 1910 until 1945
• After WWII, Korea
was split into two-
South(US) at the 38th
• An election was
going be held to
• The United Nations held an election in
• The Soviet Union refused to allow
participation in the election in their
• Instead, they handed over power to the
North Korean Communist Party under Kim
• The South elected the nationalist exile
• US government stated in January ,1950 that
Korea was “outside of our defense
perimeter”. What does this mean?
• This encouraged North Korea to be
• South Korean President Syngman Rhee and
North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung both
wanted to reunite Korea under their own
• Because of Soviet support, the North
Koreans were the ones able to go on the
• The People's 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
• Kim needed to gain Mao's 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
• Using Soviet equipment, their surprise attack was
• Within days South Korean forces were in full retreat.
• Seoul was captured by the North Koreans in early
• 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
• Although more UN support arrived it looked as
though the North could gain control of the entire
• The invasion of South
Korea came as a
complete surprise to
the United States.
• On hearing of the
agreed to use U.S.
airstrikes against the
North Korean forces.
• General Douglass
MacArthur was put in
charge of American
forces in the Pacific.
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
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
• 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
• In order to take pressure off of the Pusan
Perimeter, MacArthur ordered an amphibious
landing far behind the North Korean troops at
• United Nations troops landed at Inchon and faced
only mild resistance and quickly moved to
• The North Koreans, finding their supply lines cut,
began a rapid retreat northwards from the Pusan
• 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.
• 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
• President Truman had to prove that he was
“tough on communism” since he lost China.
• 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
• Many in the west, including General MacArthur,
thought that spreading the war to China was a
• However, Truman and the other leaders disagreed.
• MacArthur was ordered to be very cautious when
approaching the Chinese border.
• Eventually, MacArthur disregarded these
• The Communist Chinese said they would react if
the UN forces encroached upon the border at the
• 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
• 380,000 Chinese troops pushed the United
Nation troops back to the 38th parallel, the pre-
• 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 America's allies.
• In March, 1951, UN Forces succeeded in
repelling the North Korean and Chinese troops
• MacArthur was removed from command
by President Truman on April 11, 1951.
• MacArthur was succeeded by General
• 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
• 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.
• 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
• 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
• American troops remain on the border today, as
do a large number of Koreans. It is the most
heavily defended border in the world.
• President Bush has said that North Korea is part
of the “Axis of Evil”.
• In 2002, North Korea admitted to having nuclear
• 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-
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