The roots of the Korean War can be traced back to before the Second World War. Korea had been occupied by the Japanese empire since 1895 and was left in a state of limbo when Japan was defeated in the Second World War.
During World War II, the US and the USSR agreed to divide the Japanese colony of the Korean peninsula into two parts along the 38th parallel north circle of latitude, with the North controlled by the USSR and the South by the US.
“The Asian country was eventually split in two – with the Soviets occupying the north of the ‘38th parallel north’ – a line of latitude on maps – and the south controlled by a US military administration.”
“In the North, a Stalinist regime was installed under client Kim Il-sung – the grandfather of Kim Jong-un – and a powerful North Korean People’s Army was created which was equipped with Russian tanks and artillery.” (The Sun)
In the South (the Republic of Korea), Syngman Rhee was elected as its president. (World Peace Foundation)
USSR and the newly communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) supported an attempted invasion. (World Peace Foundation)
Citing concerns of a potential global spread of Communism, the US requested and received the approval of the UN Security Council (during a Soviet boycott) to militarily intervene.
North Korea invaded the South on June 25th, 1950, using its Soviet-supplied armament to easily defeat the lightly armed South Korean Army. (World Peace Foundation)
“North Koreans advanced through the country rapidly, even after American troops were drafted in from bases in Japan, and the war seemed all but over.”
“Then in September General MacArthur landed two divisions in the enemy’s rear and North Korea was forced to flee amid heavy aerial bombardment.”
“The United Nations looked on the verge of victory but the tide was turned again when China entered the war.”
“The Chinese sent 200,000 troops to North Korea in October 1950 and forced the UN forces to withdraw back to the 38th parallel after decisively winning the Battle of the Ch’ongch’on River.”
“The last two years became a war of attrition on the ground, but a fierce battle raged in the skies above Korea.” (The Sun)
“This war pitted North Korea and China which were backed with arms by the Soviet Union against South Korea and the UN. The UN force included 21 different countries, with just under 600,000 troops from South Korea and half that number from the US”. (The Sun)
“The Korean nationalists split into two warring camps – Communists and anti-Communists. The Communists split into several factions and fought amongst themselves.”
“Likewise, the anti-Communists split into numerous factions. Korean Communists killed anti-Communist Koreans and Japanese collaborators.”
“Anti-Communist Koreans killed Communists and Japanese collaborators. Japanese collaborators killed both Korean Communists and anti-Communist Koreans. (Kim Young Sik)
In July 1951, President Truman and his new military commanders started peace talks at Panmunjom. Still, the fighting continued along the 38th parallel as negotiations stalled.
Both sides were willing to accept a ceasefire that maintained the 38th parallel boundary, but they could not agree on whether prisoners of war should be forcibly “repatriated.” (The Chinese and the North Koreans said yes; the United States said no.)
Finally, after more than two years of negotiations, the adversaries signed an armistice on July 27, 1953. The agreement allowed the POWs to stay where they liked; drew a new boundary near the 38th parallel that gave South Korea an extra 1,500 square miles of territory; and created a 2-mile-wide “demilitarized zone” that still exists today.
The Korean War was relatively short but exceptionally bloody. Nearly 5 million people died. More than half of these–about 10 percent of Korea’s prewar population–were civilians. (This rate of civilian casualties was higher than World War II’s and Vietnam’s.) Almost 40,000 Americans died in action in Korea, and more than 100,000 were wounded. (history-com)
“The first president of the newly-formed Republic of Korea, Syngman Rhee, had an impressive background from the perspective of both the Americans, who had ruled the southern half of the peninsula for three years before its establishment, and the Korean citizenry. “
“‘Few heads in international politics have been battered longer or harder than his,’’ an advisor, Robert Oliver, wrote in a biography, ‘The Truth about Korea,’ which came out in 1951.”
“‘During a political career that began in 1894, Dr. Rhee has spent seven years in prison, seven months under daily torture, and forty-one years in exile with a price on his head.’”
“‘He has directed a revolution, served as president of the world’s longest-lived government-in-exile, has knocked vainly at the portals of international conferences, and finally shepherded his cause to success ― only to see his nation torn asunder by a communist invasion.’’”
“But, he is not remembered fondly by Koreans today. That is in part because, historically, the separation of Korea into two rival halves is something of an aberration.”
“‘The future ‘father’ of a unified Korea, if there is one, is more likely to be much better remembered). It is also in part because his administration presided with a heavy hand over a poor and corrupt society which changed little under his watch.”
“Given this, his departure from office was fitting. Rhee was effectively run out of town by student protestors after a rigged election, a humiliating end followed nine months later by a military coup.”
“In the early evening of March 15, 1960, 1,000 residents gathered in front of the opposition Democratic Party building in the southern city of Masan. The police started shooting and protestors responded by throwing rocks.”
“Students at Korea University in Seoul, one of whom was the current president, Lee Myung-bak, took to the streets and were set upon by police and thugs. On April 19, when they tried to march on Gyeong Mu Dae the presidential residence (later renamed Cheong Wa Dae), calling on Rhee to resign, police opened fire. One hundred and twenty-five were killed.” (Korean Times)
With the intervention of the US, Rhee resigned on April 27, 1960, and went into exile in Hawaii. He died in Honolulu on July 19, 1965, at the age of 90.