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The Korean War
1910 - 1945
• Korea used to have some
of Asia's most prominent
communist groups and
• These organizations
worked underground to
reestablish Korea's
independence during
Japan's occupation of the
Korean Peninsula (19101945)
• In 1945 Korea was
occupied by Soviet forces
in the north and American
forces in the south.
• The line that was chosen
to separate the two was
the same one that Japan
and Russia used in the
early part of the 20th
• It was called the 38th
• At the close of World War II
(1945), The Soviet Union occupied
Korea north of the 38th parallel and
the United States occupied Korea
south of the 38th parallel
• The Soviets imposed a communist
 Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea (DPRK)
 Led by Kim Il Sung
 Pyongyang as capital
• The United States put in place a
nationalist/capitalist democracy
 Republic of Korea (ROK)
 Led by Syngman Rhee
 Seoul as capital
• Originally, the intention of the U.S.
and Soviet Union was to establish a
stable unified Korea and to withdraw
their military forces, however Cold
War tensions caused events to play
out differently
• The U.S. reduced its troop levels in
South Korea to 500 troops by June
• The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin,
concluded that the U.S. would not be
willing to fight to defend South Korea
• On January 30, 1950, Stalin via
telegram notified Kim Il Sung that he
was willing to help unify Korea as a
communist state
Kim II Sung
• 33-year-old, soviet army
captain, Kim II Sung became
known to be a heroic guerrilla
• In early 1946, Soviet
occupying forces chose him
to head the provisional
government for North Korea.
• 3 weeks after the Southern
Republic of Korea was made,
Sung was named premier of
the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea on
September 9th 1948.
Progression & Economy
Kim didn't want a Soviet satellite state and instead embraced
Korean nationalism. The focus of which was the Korean
People’s Army. Under Kim's rule:
•over 2 million acres of land were redistributed in under a
•women were guaranteed equality under the law
•political action cells were formed to educate the population
It was clear that under his rule, North Korea had become
economically well-endowed in comparison to South Korea. In
June of 1949 both the Soviets and Americans had left the
peninsula, this is when Kim's plan to unite Korea became
On the Brink of War
• South Korea obviously appeared
to be faltering, but President
Syngman Rhee (South Korea)
unleashed a brutal campaign
against suspected communists
and leftists.
• At first Kim wanted to use force,
however he needed support and
so he turned to Stalin for help.
Stalin supported his invasion plan,
and advised him to get support
from China’s new communist
leader, Mao Zedong. He did and
was now on the brink of war.
Leading Causes of the Korean War
– American Army had recently increased tensions as far as the arms race
went and Truman wanted to display the power and wealth of America
– The USSR wanted better results and a chance to prove themselves
after the Berlin Blockade. This was particularly important to Stalin.
– They felt that the Korean war was their way of proving their reputation.
Leading Causes of the Korean War
– The USA wanted to support Syngman Rhee because he was a
democrat surrounded by communism
– USA: supported South Korea.
– The USSR wanted to support the communist nation, because of the
same political ideals.
– USSR: supported North Korea.
– They could not get involved in a war against
communism without directly fighting the USSR.
Leading Causes of the Korean War
Cold War
– Stalin encouraged the spread of communism as long as it did not result in
a war with America. He soon realized that nuclear war might be a possibility
and wanted to avoid that and beat the USA using more indirect means.
– The Domino Effect - Truman believed that if Korea fell to communism, Japan (a
major trading partner) would follow.
– The Truman Doctrine stated that the USA would lend aid to any country not
wishing to be suppressed by the political ideals (communism) of any other
– April 1950 the American National Security Council issued a report recommending
direct involvement (a proxy war) against communism.
– Stalin saw that the Korean War Was a chance for a war by proxy. Kim II Sung
visited Stalin to persuade him that he could conquer South Korea.
This map is from
an American
magazine from
1950. This shows
how much the US
communism in
the far east.
United Nations
• The United Nations now had to
formulate a plan. Sixteen
member states would provide
troops under a United Nations
Joint Command. It would fight
with the South Korean army.
• On September 15th 1950,
United Nations troops landed at
Inchon. The landing was a huge
success and the United Nations
effectively cut the North Korean
army in half and pushed them
out of South Korea.
U.N. Forces
• General Douglas
MacArthur was placed in
command of the U.N.
forces, which included
combat and medical units
from 22 nations
• The United States
provided 50% of the ground
forces, 86% of the naval
forces and 93% of the air
power for the U.N. forces.
(South Korea provided
most of the remainder)
Soviet Union
• Soviets sold Chinese military
equipment, including artillery
and MIG fighter planes.
• The USSR also provided
advisers and military hardware
to the North Koreans.
• Soviet pilots flew MIGs against
US planes.
• However, Stalin was unwilling
to become involved with the
United States in a war over
United States
• The US provided the majority
of the UN military forces which
drove the North Koreans out of
South Korea and still stand
guard along the border.
The US moved their troops into
South Korea quickly.
• The US and the Soviets
agreed to divide Korea
temporarily to avoid long term
decisions regarding Korea's
• Although the United States
took the lead in the Korean
action, it did so under the order
of the United Nations.
North Korea Attacks
• On June 25, 1950, North Korea
invaded South Korea marking the
start of the Korean War
• By the evening of June 28, 1950,
the South Korean capital of Seoul
had fallen and ROK forces were in
• South Korea appealed to the
United Nations (U.N.) for help
• The U.N. Security Council called
for an immediate end to hostilities
and passed Resolution 82,
authorizing force to be used in
• 21 of the U.N. member states
agreed to contribute arms, money
and/or troops to rid South Korean
of its North Korean aggressor
• The initial U.N. forces were
unable to slow the advance of the
North Korean forces and fought
desperate delaying operations until
more U.N. troops could arrive in
South Korea
• By the end of July 1950, the North
Koreans had contained the U.N.
forces in a perimeter around the
Port of Pusan (in the southeast
corner of the Korean peninsula)
• General MacArthur launched a
offensive amphibious invasion at the
Port of Inchon (near Seoul) changing
the course of the war
• American forces quickly gained
control of Inchon and recaptured
Seoul within days, cutting the North
Korean supply line
• American and ROK forces in Pusan
broke out of the Pusan perimeter
and pursued fleeing DPRK forces
Push to the Yalu River
• Capitalizing on Secretary of
Defense George Marshall’s
directions which stated, “We want
you to feel unhampered tactically
and strategically to proceed north of
the 38th Parallel,” General MacArthur
pushed U.N. forces north towards
the Yalu River
• Ignoring evidence that Chinese
forces had moved across the Yalu
River into North Korea, MacArthur
assured U.S. troops that they would
be “home by Christmas”
• MacArthur further risked his forces
by splitting his troops, with the X
Corps advancing along the eastern
coast and the Eighth Army
advancing along the western coast.
Chinese offensive
• U.S. forces unexpectedly ran into
approximately 180,000 Chinese
troops. The right flank of the Eight
Army (U.S.) was shattered and the X
Corps (U.S.) fought a desperate
struggle near the Chosin Reservoir
• U.N. troops were evacuated back to
the Pusan perimeter and Seoul was
captured by the Chinese forces
• On November28, 1951, a shaken
MacArthur informed the Joint Chiefs
of Staff that the U.N. forces faced an
“entirely new war”
Why did China enter the war?
• UN forces pushed
north to China
• Crossed 38th parallel
– Yalu River and border
with China
• Mao Zedong already
made it clear that
China would not
tolerate foreign forces
on border
What happens next?
• October 14 to November 1, 1950
– Chinese send 180,000 of the People’s
Volunteer Army to cross Yalu River
– They pushed the American forces back
• November 2
– UN realizes that the attack was done by
Communist China
“Home-by-Christmas” offensive
• November 24 –
MacArthur launches
offensive attack
• Chinese army
retaliates with full
• American and South
Korean units retreat
• Ends January 1951
• Beginning January 25, LTG General
Matthew Ridgway (in command of the
U.S. Eighth Army) led the U.N. forces
in a slow advance northward. They
inflicted heavy casualties on the
Chinese and North Korean troops and
recaptured Seoul
• Tensions increased between
President Truman and General
MacArthur during this period and on
April 10, 1951, Truman relieved
MacArthur of command. He was
replaced by General Ridgway
• The fighting largely fell into a
stalemate along the 38th Parallel
• An Armistice ending the war was
signed on July 27, 1953
• The Armistice provided for a
suspension of open hostilities and a
fixed demilitarized zone to serve as a
buffer between North and South
Korea that remains today
• In many ways the Korean War has
never really ended
The Korean War Armistice
• Designed to insure an end to
warfare and all acts of armed
force in Korea until a definitive
peaceful could be achieved
• It was signed on July 27,1953
• Covered issues such as
- exchange of prisoners of war
- location of a demarcation line
• Intended as a temporary
measure, but the 38th parallel
remains standing even today.
• Approximately 5 million people killed during the war (1950-1953)
• More than 34,000 Americans killed in action
• More than 600,000 Chinese killed in action
• Enforced by a Military Armistice Commission
• Armies began the awkward process of
disengagement over the 4km wide DMZ.
• It provided…
suspension of open hostilities
fixed demarcation line with a four kilometre (2.4
mile) buffer zone - the so-called demilitarization
A mechanism for the transfer of prisoners of war
Map of Korea
• 1954 - an international conference in Geneva was organized by
the United States
- discussed the political future of Korea
- no agreement was produced
• Armistice- only safeguard for peace on the Korean peninsula
• After three years, July 27, 1953- ceasefire
stopped the fighting
• Although there was no declared winner,
South Korea never succumbed to a
communist rule.
• The war cost the US more than 20 billion
• There was an
armistice signed by
North Korea, China,
and the UN but not by
South Korea.
• The armistice was
NOT a peace treaty,
just a temporary
cessation of
• Korea is still split up
into North Korea
(communist) and
South Korea (noncommunist)
• The border between
the two countries has
remained one of the
most heavily-armed
stretches of land on