The Korean War (in South Korean Hangul: 한국전쟁, Hanja: 韓國戰爭, Hanguk Jeonjaeng, "Korean War"; in North Korean Chosungul: 조국해방전쟁, Joguk Haebang Jeonjaeng, "Fatherland Liberation War"; 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) was a war between North and South Korea, in which a United Nations force led by the United States of America fought for the South, and China fought for the North, which was also assisted by the Soviet Union. The war arose from the division of Korea at the end of World War II and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.
- The Korean War was fought for a just cause. After North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, U.S. forces were rushed into battle from Japan, joined later by many thousands of Americans, 36,000 of whom lost their lives in battle to defend freedom. In the early weeks of the war, U.S. troops were young, under-trained, and unprepared for the battle tactics of the North Korean forces. The sacrifices of the United States and the South Korean soldiers who lost their lives in this fight for freedom on the Korean peninsula could never be forgotten.
- It will begin with its President taking a simple, firm resolution. The resolution will be: To forego the diversions of politics and to concentrate on the job of ending the Korean war–until that job is honorably done. That job requires a personal trip to Korea. I shall make that trip. Only in that way could I learn how best to serve the American people in the cause of peace. I shall go to Korea.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower, "I Shall Go to Korea", October 25, 1952; as qtd. on Whitehouse.gov and in Martin J. Medhurst, "Text and Context in the 1952 Presidential Campaign: Eisenhower's "I Shall Go to Korea" Speech", Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Sep., 2000), pp. 464.
- From the onset of the crisis, Truman's concerns were of a global nature. At meeting after meeting he prodded his subordinates to assess where the enxt Soviet moves might be. A key deterrent, in fact, to intervention in Korea was the thought that Stalin might divert U.S. attention to an area of tertiary significance while the Russians swiftly seized areas of greater importance. Truman instinctively believed that the Soviets wanted to overrun Iran, gain access to Middle Eastern oil, and find warm-water ports in the Persian Gulf and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The idea that North Korea might be acting on its own volition to bring about a unification of the Korean people was beyond the grasp of U.S. officials.
- Melvyn P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War, "Wrestling The Initiative", (1992), p. 366.
- We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.
- Curtis LeMay, in Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988)
- Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure?
- Curtis LeMay in Strategic Air Warfare: An Interview with Generals (1988)
- Chinese history textbooks state that the Korean War began when "the United States assembled a United Nations army of 15 countries and defiantly marched across the border and invaded North Korea, spreading the flames of war to our Yalu river."
- The official Chinese media stated for the first time that it was North Korea that dealt the first blow. In a special report, Xinhua's International Affairs journal said: "On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army marched over 38th Parallel and started the attack. Three days later, Seoul fell."
China and North Korea were "as close as lips and teeth," said Mao Tse-tung.
"It is not convenient for me to comment on the matter," said Zhang Liangui, a leading professor of Korean studies at the Communist Central Party School in Beijing. "I was not aware of this timeline [in the Xinhua article]. As far as I am aware there has been no change to the official view on the war."
Meanwhile, the Global Times, a government-run newspaper, said it was "high time to renew and strengthen efforts by Chinese scholars to discover the truth about the Korean War."
In Seoul, South Korea held an official ceremony to remember the war and Lee Myung-bak, the president, paid tribute to the dead. "Sixty years ago, North Korea's communists opened fire on a weekend's dawn when all people were sleeping peacefully," he said.
Meanwhile, across the border, North Korea put across its own view of the conflict. Under the headline: "US, Provoker of Korean War," the country's state news agency accused Washington of starting the war with a surprise attack.
"All the historical facts show that it is the US imperialists who unleashed the war in Korea and that the United States can never escape from the responsibility," the Korean Central News Agency said.
- Sixty years ago, at dawn on June 25, the Korean War broke out when Communist North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. In response, 16 member countries of the United Nations, including the United States, joined with the Republic of Korea to defend freedom. Over the next three years of fighting, about 37,000 Americans lost their lives. They fought for the freedom of Koreans they did not even know, and thanks to their sacrifices, the peace and democracy of the republic were protected... On the 60th anniversary of the Korean War, I remain grateful to America for having participated in the war. At that time, the Republic of Korea was one of the most impoverished countries, with an annual per capita income of less than $40. In 2009, my country became a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee, the first aid recipient to become a donor and in only one generation.
- The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry on the battlefields of Korea … are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them.
- The tragedy of Korea is further heightened by the fact that its military action is confined to its territorial limits. It condemns that nation, which it is our purpose to save, to suffer the devastating impact of full naval and air bombardment while the enemy's sanctuaries are fully protected from such attack and devastation. Of the nations of the world, Korea alone, up to now, is the sole one which has risked its all against communism. The magnificence of the courage and fortitude of the Korean people defies description. They have chosen to risk death rather than slavery. Their last words to me were: 'Don't scuttle the Pacific!'
- Korea, a Japanese colony from 1910 until 1945, was occupied by the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The United States proposed temporarily dividing the country along the 38th Parallel as a way to maintain its influence on the peninsula, which bordered Russia, said Charles K. Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University.
“A divided Korea was something unprecedented,” he said.
But the divide lasted in part because of competing visions among Koreans for the country’s future. “Fundamentally it was a civil war, fought over issues going back into Korea’s colonial experience,” said Bruce Cumings, a professor of history at the University of Chicago.
- The war pitted South Korea and the United States, fighting under the auspices of the United Nations, against North Korea and China.
Other nations contributed troops, too, but American forces did most of the fighting. “The South Korean Army virtually collapsed” at the start of the war, Professor Cumings said.
- “There was a lot of field contact between American and Chinese forces,” Professor Armstrong said. “In a sense, this was the first and only war between China and the United States, so far.”
- Destruction was particularly acute in the North, which was subjected to years of American bombing, including with napalm. Roughly 25 percent of its prewar population was killed, Professor Cumings said, and many of the survivors lived underground by the war’s end.
“North Korea was flattened,” he said. “The North Koreans see the American bombing as a Holocaust, and every child is taught about it.”
Damage was also widespread in South Korea, where Seoul changed hands four times. But most combat took place in the northern or central parts of the peninsula around the current Demilitarized Zone, which divides the countries, Professor Cumings said.
- Since 1953 there has been an uneasy coexistence between North and South Korea, which hosts over 20,000 American troops. At one time hundreds of American nuclear weapons were based there.
“It was from the Korean War onward that we had a permanent, global American military presence that we had never had before,” Professor Armstrong said. Other countries that host American troops include Qatar, Japan, Italy and Germany. “It was a real turning point for America’s global role.”
In the decades after the war, South Korea transformed into an economic powerhouse. Professor Cumings said many of its citizens now know little about the conflict and have “a fatalistic orientation” toward the economically isolated North.
Meanwhile, North Korea became “the world’s most amazing garrison state with the fourth largest army in the world.”
“Its generals are still fighting the war,” Professor Cumings said. “For them it has never ended.”
- Liam Stack, “Korean War, a ‘Forgotten’ Conflict That Shaped the Modern World”, The New York Times, (Jan. 1, 2018)
- If we let Korea down, the Soviet[s] will keep right on going and swallow up one [place] after another. ....If we were to let Asia go, the Near East would collapse and no telling what would happen in Europe.
- Harry Truman, June 25, 1950; as qtd in Melvyn P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War, "Wrestling The Initiative", (1992), p. 366.
- China's decision to intervene in the Korean War on behalf of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had its historical roots. It was the natural result of gradually developed animosity between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and what it regarded as the foreign imperialist powers, especially the United States, and of the fear of a threat from the latter.
Over the past century or more, a quiet, self-reliant and complacent Middle Kingdom jas neem rediced nu fpreogm agggressopms tp a se,o=colony. Its populace was repeatedly abused and its national dignity, of which the Confucian intellectuals had been proud over thousands of years, was humiliatingly affronted.
- Hao Yufan and Zhai Zhihai, "China's Decision to Enter the Korean War: History Revisited", The China Quarterly, No. 121 (Mar., 1990), pp. 94
- Encyclopedic article on Korean War at Wikipedia