This page last
updated 31 October, 2009.
*In 1950, after spending a
year building up a massive army, North Korea invaded South Korea.
*Despite their own posturing, the South was caught off guard and pushed
back. Seoul was captured, and by 4 August, the entire South
Korean army and the few US soldiers in the country were pushed back to
a small area round the southern city of Pusan, where they held out
along the Pusan Perimeter awaiting evacuation or re-enforcement.
*Truman sprang into action. The concept of containment that lay
at the base of US foreign policy; this was the notion that if the US
relaxed their guard anywhere, the communists would take advantage of
it. However, America was not going to do this alone—they were
going to ask the UN.
*Normally, an attempt to get the UN to intervene in Korea would have
been stopped by the Soviets, who supported the North Korean
cause. However, when China fell, the UN did not recognise the
Communist government, and continued to seat the Nationalist
representatives sent by Chiang. In protest, the Soviets walked
out, boycotting the Security Council. Truman immediately took
advantage of this, passing a resolution on a UN police action through
the Security Council on the same day the NKPA invaded—no attending
country voted against the measure, and only Yugoslavia abstained.
The Soviets never boycotted a meeting again.
*MacArthur chose not to try to fight back from the Pusan Perimeter, but
instead chose to flank the enemy with a hazardous amphibious assault at
Inchon. The Inchon landing took place on 15 September 1950 and
was a brilliant success, cutting of the NKPA’s lines of supply and
completely recapturing Seoul within two weeks and driving the entire
NKPA north of the 38th parallel.
*Now the tricky question was what to do. It seemed foolish to let
the DPRK re-group and invade at a more propitious date.
MacArthur, with Truman and the UN’s approval, pursued the NKPA beyond
the border. This operation was so successful that by October, the
UN was almost within sight of the Chinese border, and much of the NKPA
was hiding beyond it. China has warned the UN not to come to
close to the Yalu River, the border between China and Korea, but
MacArthur ignored these warnings.
*On 19 October 1950, 280,000 soldiers of the Chinese People’s
Liberation Army crossed into North Korea. For over a month, the
PVA and the UN forces contended along the northern frontier of
Korea. Eventually the overwhelming mass of Chinese troops pushed
the UN and ROK forces back towards the old demarcation line. On 4
January 1951, the NKPA captured Seoul. Seoul was liberated again
by 21 April, and the lines would shift some until October, after which
they would move little, if at all.
*The war dragged on in 1953, when newly-elected president Eisenhower,
fulfilling a campaign promise, went to Korea to try to create
peace. Even he failed.
*After years of negotiation, an armistice was finally signed on 27 July
1953 at the border village of Panmunjon. The North Korean and
American generals signed, but the South Korean general did not.
However, the fighting was officially ended and a 2 ½ mile wide
de-militarised zone was drawn along the battle line, not far from the
old 38th Parallel demarcation line. To this day, the Korean War
has never officially ended, and the DMZ remains the most heavily
fortified border in the world, guarded by North Korean, South Korean,
and US troops.
*The Department of Defense reports that 54,246 Americans service men
and women lost their lives during the Korean War.
*Since 1953, South Korea has become one of the world’s most important
economies, and is a thoroughly modern nation—one the Four Tigers of the
1960s and 1970s.
North Korea is one of the poorest nations in the world, so poor and so
often suffering from famine that people flee by the thousands every
year to Red China seeking food. They have one of the worst human
rights records in the world.
*North Korea tested a small nuclear weapon on 9 October, 2006.
Currently its missile systems will not carry its weapons to the US or
Europe, but they could hit Japan, China, Russia, or, of course, South
Korea. No-one wants North Korea to have nuclear weapons, and
negotiations to end or contain their nuclear ambitions are a major
issue in world politics today.