The Korean War is commemorated on June 25th, and it is possibly the least well-known combat in modern history. As a result, everyone save those who fought in it refers to it as the “Forgotten War” or the “Unknown War.” Because of this, the war’s facts, including why it happened and what happened afterwards, are treated as a Cold War footnote in Western world history classes.
Why War Broke Out in Korea?
The United States and the Soviet Union liberated annexed Korea, then one country, from the Japanese at the close of World War II. The United States and the Soviet Union then divided the country into two occupation zones: North and South, with the United States, advising the south as it transitioned to a republic and the Soviets taking the north and installing communist leader Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. In 1948, as the Cold War began, two sovereign republics were established: the south as a republican state, and the north as a communist state. The 38th parallel is the line that separates the two.
North Korean forces, the Korean People’s Army, crossed the 38th parallel into South Korea on June 25, 1950, backed by China and the Soviet Union. Their strategy was simple: reunify the Korean Peninsula under Kim’s leadership. Korea would become the Cold War’s first battleground. As a result, the newly founded United Nations and its Security Council authorised the deployment of troops to end the conflict. It was a violent battle between two opposing ideologies: communism and capitalism. As a result, the newly founded United Nations and its Security Council authorised the deployment of troops to end the conflict. It was a violent battle between two opposing ideologies: communism and capitalism.
Despite the fact that the United States provided the majority of the fighting force during the Korean War, with almost 5.3 million troops deployed globally by the end of the conflict, more than 55 countries supplied troops, supplies, or other forms of aid to the South Korean cause. Military participation was provided by twenty-one countries. In August 1948, Syngman Rhee, the head of the Republic of Korea Army, organised the South Korean forces that would become the Republic of Korea Army. 30,000 ROKA had died for the cause by the end of the conflict.
More than three million North Korean, Chinese, and Russian troops took part in the three-year border battle, which turned into a horrific border war. According to CNN, “the war cost around 1.2 million lives in South Korea, 1 million lives in North Korea, 36,500 lives for US troops, and 600,000 lives for Chinese soldiers.”
At initially, the North Koreans made quick headway, seizing Seoul and driving South Korean and American troops back to Busan, South Korea’s southern port. After the Waegwan bridge over the Nakdong River was blown up on August 3, General Douglas MacArthur was able to hold them off. After that, UN forces continued to replenish and reinforce their position with a defensive perimeter. Soon after, the first British troops arrived in Busan. They were quickly dispatched to the western part of the Busan defences, the Nakdong. They and the UN forces counter-attacked after being reinforced.
Despite being “forgotten,” the border dispute that escalated into a full-fledged war set the stage for some of the most famous and terrible conflicts in contemporary military history. The Battle of Bloody Ridge, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, and the Battle of Incheon all took place there.
The first, in the midst of the war’s stalemate in 1951, Bloody Ridge, lasted three weeks and resulted in 2,700 UN casualties but 15,000 for the opposing side. The battle of the Chosin Reservoir is widely regarded as the most agonising of the Korean War’s conflicts, and it redefined heroism as demonstrated by US Marines fighting in the harshest terrain Korea had to offer, enduring severe weather and fighting in the harshest terrain Korea had to offer. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the amphibious operation at Inchon, which “reversed the tide of the war, forcing the invading North Korean army to flee in chaos along the Korean peninsula,” was a bright moment for U.S. General Douglas MacArthur.
In April 1951, the Chinese launched a counter-offensive, intending to retake the South Korean capital. On the 22nd and 25th of April, they were held up by UN forces near Kapyong (now Gapyeong) and on the Imjin River (22-25 April). The British 29th Brigade was in charge of defending the line at Imjin. Despite the fact that the enemy had a numerical advantage, the brigade held its position for three days until being forced to retreat. Imjin River was the British Army’s heaviest fight since WWII, as well as one of the most decisive defensive battles the army has ever fought. The measures slowed the Chinese attack, allowing UN forces to retreat to a safer defensive position north of Seoul, where they were eventually able to stop the enemy.
The battle at Imjin signalled the end of the war’s mobile phase. The strategic bombing of North Korea and the imposition of a naval blockade on the country resulted in a stalemate. The Soviets signalled in June that they were inclined to pursue an arbitration settlement.
In July 1951, armistice talks began at Kaesong. However, because of differences over the topic of prisoner-of-war exchanges, a settlement could not be achieved. Two years of static fighting followed, with many of the battles taking place in terrible cold and heat. Commonwealth troops were rotated in and out of hill positions, patrolling and defending them. Although the fighting fronts were now static, set-piece actions were nevertheless carried out from time to time as both sides tried to gain control of critical regions of territory and gain a victory that would enhance their negotiation position. From July 1951, British forces were assigned to Major-General James Cassels’ 1st Commonwealth Division.
A truce was struck after three arduous years of fighting many battles and losing troops to countries all over the world. Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr. of the United States Army and North Korean Gen. Nam Il signed 18 copies of the formal Korean Armistice Agreement in three languages on July 27, 1953.
The war had a devastating human cost. The Strategic Air Command groups dropped 4,000 tonnes of bombs in the first month of their operation alone. The bombers employed napalm in addition to high explosives. Curtis LeMay now retired, characterised the carnage as follows: “We eventually set fire to every town in North Korea, as well as several in South Korea. We also set fire to [the South Korean city of] Busan, which was an accident, but we set fire to it nonetheless.” Estimates of losses vary significantly, but there is evidence to assume that more than two million people died in North Korea, in addition to the three and a half million military killed, wounded, and missing on both sides. In the end, the border between the two countries remained unchanged from before the invasion by North Korea.
At Panmunjom on July 27, 1953, an Armistice was ultimately signed. Korea, however, remained a divided country. The 1st Commonwealth Division was reduced to a brigade-level in 1954 before being phased out in 1957. Since 1953, North and South Korea have taken drastically distinct courses. South Korea has grown into an important Asian economic and industrial force, absorbing global culture and ideas. It is a prosperous capitalist nation, with massive firms exporting goods all over the globe. North Korea is still a communist state. Its economy revolves around the maintenance of one of the world’s largest standing armies. The United Nations has expressed concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.
The Armistice, on the other hand, was not a long-term peace deal between the two countries. While the Armistice stopped all military forces combat in Korea, no peace treaty between the North and South Korean governments has ever been signed to re-establish relations. In essence, the battle never came to a close. A demilitarised zone, or DMZ, was established by extending 1.2 miles on each side of the 38th parallel, but both sides maintain a significant military presence there.
Over the last 70 years, the countries have alternated between periods of rapprochement and outright enmity. Some family members are still separated from each other on opposite sides of the border. While North Korea’s sabre-rattling has increased in response to its nuclear-weapons development, the United States maintains a large military presence in South Korea – roughly 28,500 troops.
Tensions have risen since the beginning of COVID-19, as the worldwide blockade of commodities and services has wreaked more havoc on North Korea’s economy than any sanctions system. South Korea has fared exceptionally well in the face of the pandemic. North Korea, on the other hand, claims that it has no cases. We know this isn’t true because officials were executed for not following protocol at the start of the pandemic.
It’s improbable that peace will be achieved. There can be no tractionable change without a peace treaty to end the Korean War. I just don’t know if there’s enough motivation to make it happen.