The Korean War.
Korean War was a military confrontation in Korea between USSR forces, Chinese army and North Korean forces against South Korean forces, American and United Nations forces. Major hostilities lasted between 1950 and 1953 and were took place in the Korean Peninsula. The war resulted in a bid divide Korea into two that, north and South Korea soon after the Second World War was over. Efforts were made to harmonize and unify the two sides to prevent the looming break up of the peninsula region nevertheless, the unexpected happened and Korea became two nations; the North Korea which came to be known as the People Republic of Korea and South Korea which is also known as Republic of Korea. This crisis did not end here as the two nations were not satisfied with what they had. The northern military in June 1950 crossed the border to attack the southern part and this marked the second most furious phase in the history of the Korean War. This research paper will discuss in depth how Korean War started, how it developed and progressed over time, the role played by other nations such as the US and USSR and the consequences of this war.
Korea prior to its annexation by Japan in 1920 was known to be an independent nation. Japanese usurped control of this nation all the way up to the very end of the Second World War in 1945 but shortly before the war was over, the United States had already started showing some interest in owning the southern part. The US made this decision to prevent the Soviet Union which had staged war against Japan with an aim of taking control over the whole territory. The US went ahead and divided the Korean region at the 38th parallel. This was a unilateral decision as they did not involve the USSR which had also shown some vested interest in the region. It was in the best of their interest to keep the capital city, Seoul and that was why the border line was marked there. (Korean War.com)
The two superpowers went ahead with their activities within their geographical divides without experiencing much difficulty but they had to suppress the local factions who were in opposition to their respective ideologies. To safeguard their interests, the United States had to check the spread of the leftist ideologies from the southerners. In doing so, they supported a seventy year old, Syngman Phee a former US resident. He had good reputation in US and again was an ardent anti-communist (Goldstein, D.M. and Maihafer H. J. 258). As they were doing so, the Northerners had also come up with their own strategy of how they would check the spread of the right wing ideologies, capitalism. They put their weight behind Kim Il Sung, a 33 year old and reputable person with massive supporters from the North and China. Kim is also known for the role he played in the 1930s conflict between Japanese and Chinese over Manchuria. He was a Korean Guerrilla who fought in that conflict on the Chinese side against the Japanese. “In the North, the Soviets backed a Stalinist regime under their client Kim Il-sung and created the North Korean Peoples' Army, equipped with Russian tanks and artillery. In the South, the chaotic political situation resulted in an American-backed administration under the presidency of Syngman Rhee, whose openly declared aim was the imposition of national unity by force” (Hickey, M.).
Both the US and the Soviets continued to stay in their informal territories until their occupation was formalized in 1948. Early skirmishes were witnessed in the later part of the 1940s when the Northern guerrillas invaded the South. By then, the southern government had not yet been inaugurated and thus the war was a very big challenge to them. The objective of the north was to expand their sphere of influence and if possible spread their communist ideologies. “Kim had as his objective the communization of the whole Peninsula in compliance with the communist expansion policy in the context of cold war rivalry created between the free world and the communist world…” (Korea Institute of military History, 1)
Kim’s move to install his leadership in the south was opposed both by the US and the international bodies such as the United Nations (UN). In its response to the capturing of Seoul by the North, the UN recommended its troops to be deployed there to prevent further encroachment and to restore peace but this did not happen as there was no consensus on that. This was because, Russia which supported the Northern government was against the UN’s decision and thus they tried to veto it out by boycotting the meetings but their efforts were futile. Eventually troops from fifteen nations were dispatched to the region under Douglas Mac Arthur as their Commander. (Hickey, M.).
These impromptu attacks were very beneficial to the attackers as they managed to occupy almost the whole of the South Korea with the exception of the Pusan port. In response to these attacks, the southern troops in collaboration with that of McArthur launched their counter attack mission by sending their marines to the north. They engaged the Koreans in a very serious fight until they retreated. The southerners took this advantage and advanced on towards the north all the way up to the China-Korea frontier at Yalu River on October 24th, 1950.
During this fight, the US troops stayed aside citing the reason that this war was as a result of the south provoking border fights and for this reason they refused to aid South Korea with the combat tanks and airplanes. In response to this, US delivered an ambiguous statement back at home on whether the US should support the war or not. This is what came to be dubbed to as the ‘press club’ and the speech was delivered by the then secretary of state affairs Dean Acheson. (Kaufman B. Ira 8)
For all the period that the conflict was on going, the Soviet Union was not very supportive and left the North Korean to conduct it in their way until in the early 1950s when Stalin somehow endorsed the fight. The reason behind Soviet Union’s reluctance to show full support of the war was because they were not certain of what might turn out as far as their relationship with the US was concerned.
On the other hand, the US was also reluctant to support the south. Despite the fact that they saw restoration of peace in Korea as a bridge to the revival of Japanese industrial economy which was of much value in equipping South Korea, they withdrew their forces though they left a substantial number of military personnel. They also continued providing South Korea with any economic assistance they needed. The Soviet Union viewed North Korea as a very strategic place in protecting themselves from attacks and so to some extent they were supportive contrary to what the US was doing, it even refused to equip the south on the belief that if they were equipped with arms they would attack the North thereby extending Korean conflict to the US and the USSR. (Kaufman B. Ira 7)
Though the USSR considered North Korea as part of its security bracket, they too never wanted the conflict to be extended to be between them and the US. The same was preoccupying the Chinese government who did not want their attention on their plans to attack Taiwan being divided. After refusing to assist North Korea for some time, they weighed the consequences of the North Korea being defeated in three days by the south and left with no other good option, they agreed to support it. (Kindsvatter, P.S. 89-92)
Well equipped with Soviet Union’s military equipments on 25th June, the North Korean force smashed the ill equipped South Korean forces forcing them to retreat unconditionally. That was when Truman, the then US president was forced to deploy his troops to avoid the northern forces from possessing Formosa air force and American army was sent there and at this time the secretary of state Acheson successfully convinced his country to increase its military aid to South Korea. He also convinced the president that it was prudent if the US’ Seventh Fleet navy was placed at Taiwan Strait to bar the communist Chinese from invading their prey, Taiwan through the Island. This US war strategy was not to be put into use until it was sanctioned by the United Nations but it did not take long before UN allowed the US to go on. “On June 27, he (Acheson) also won approval from the United Nations, which the United States still dominated of the resolution calling for military sanctions against North Korea” (Kaufman 7).
In 1950s summer, the KPA forces launched another attack and defeated the American troops. They continued to advance until they occupied about 90% of the South and their army slowed down only when the 1st Marine Brigade of the US arrived. These US marines were located at Daegu which became their port and it indeed proved to be effective in repelling attacks from the North Korean forces. (Russ, M. 422-23)
The KPA forces never lost hope and kept on staging attacks. At the end of August they staged another deadly attack thereby destroying the Korean – American security lines. They advanced until they went beyond the border line and other critical parts. On January 1951, with the assistance from both the USSR and China, the North Korea struck again. The Chinese used a combination of war tactics that the other forces were not used to for example to attack at night and using gongs and drums and these greatly demoralized their enemies whom were forced to retreat. Again in Mid February 1951, the Chinese struck again but this time their deceitful and cunning tactics had already been mastered by their enemies and so they were defeated. They advanced until neither Chinese nor Northern Korean forces were left in Seoul. (Russ, M. 420-425)
From here, the war took another dimension a major challenge being how the statement would be resolved. The intensity of the war had slightly reduced although it continued along the 38th parallel. Most of it was fought in trenches something characteristic of the Second World War. The communists fought constantly thereby depleting UN war finances. It was not until 23rd June 1951 that a proposal to end war by USSR’s UN representative Adam Malik was made. (Kindsvatter, P.S. 67)
The United States agreed accepted the cease fire proposal that was requested by the Russian UN representative and the discussions were to be held at Kaesong, an ancient Korean capital. The agreement to ceasefire was not achieved as soon as it was expected to happen and dragged on for quite a time. This was because of a number of reasons the issue of prisoners of was being one and fairly demarcation issue being the second but the main one was how the borderline would fairly be established and also how the USSR forces mistreated their prisoners of war was another. Eventually, the stalemate was resolved on 8th June 1953. (Russ, M. 422)
The Korean is one of those wars that are not discussed much and some do not even know there was such a war. In a kind it was a civil war that was fought between two different groups in one nation. The erupted as the efforts to restore peace in Korea failed but the major war activities happened in the period between 1950 and 1953. The two warring groups enjoyed the support of other nations such as the United States, the USSR and China. US were on the South Korea side while the other two supported the North Korea. After discussions were held for a very long time an agreement was finally reached and the stalemate ended on 8th June 1953.
Goldstein, D.M. and Maihafer H. J. The Korean War: The Story and Photographs.
Hickey, M. The Korean War: An Overview. 2001. Accessed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/coldwar/korea_hickey_01.shtml
Kaufman B. Ira. The Korean Conflict. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
Korean War.com. Korean War. 2007. Accessed at http://www.koreanwar.com/
Korea Institute of Military History. The Korean War. Nebraska Press, 2000
Kindsvatter, P.S. American Soldiers: Ground Combat in the World Wars, Korea,
and Vietnam. Kansas University Press, 2003.
Russ, M. The Choosing Reservoir Campaign, Korea 1950, Penguin, 2000.