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The Korean War 1950-1953. The Cold War: Development & Impact Globally. The war was caused by external issues. Korea had been under Japanese occupation during WWII – after Japan had lost the Allied forces and the Soviets agreed to divide Korea along the 38 th parallel

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the korean war 1950 1953

The Korean War 1950-1953

The Cold War: Development & Impact Globally

the war was caused by external issues
The war was caused by external issues
  • Korea had been under Japanese occupation during WWII – after Japan had lost the Allied forces and the Soviets agreed to divide Korea along the 38th parallel
  • Most Koreans wanted unification
  • The Soviets occupied the North, and the US occupied the South
  • The US created the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South under Syngman Rhee
  • In response the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was founded in the North under Communist leader Kim Il-Sung
  • North Korea wanted to expand its borders and communism into the south
  • North Korea with support from the USSR and People’s Republic of China invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950

-Korean War was the result of both defensive and offensive reasons:

    • -South Korea was defending itself against a North Korean attack
    • -North Korea provoked the war by crossing the border
  • -Was the result of political causes:
    • -The US wanted to contain communism; USSR and China wanted communism to expand
    • -The 38th parallel acted as a political border

Weapons & Technology

  • Aircraft was the newest technology evolving in warfare at the time
  • First war to utilize the jet aircraft & saw some of the first helicopters used during a war
  • Helicopters used for medical evacuation
  • Fighter aircraft were primarily used fir air-to air combat against other fighters
  • Bombers used to attack the ground forces & buildings
  • Transport aircraft used to transport troops or equipment across distances
  • Reconnaissance aircraft used for surveying or observation missions
  • Weapons used by the US Army Infantry & US Marine Corps were basically the same types used in WWII

Cost of the War

  • For Korea
  • Cost in human lives & property was vast
  • $67 billion (1953 dollars); $535 billion (2008 dollars)
  • Much of North Korean land was severely damaged due aerial bombing
  • For the US
  • NSC-68’s recommendation to triple the defense budget was implemented
  • US defense spending increased dramatically turning at around 10% of American GNP in 1950
  • Heavy American casualties and many were taken as POW’s

Role played by outside forces

  • The United States asked the UN the remove the North Koreans by force, claiming that their invasion was a violation of peace
  • USSR could not veto the decision (boycotting); UN sent in troops in support of South Korea (15 UN countries); US comprised of 90% of the UN force
  • July 1 troops arrived in Korea, soon joined by 15 other nations, although majority were American troops fought under UN commander American General Douglas MacArthur
  • General MacArthur led the UN forces in an amphibious attack at Inchon (near Seoul) in order to bypass Korean troops & cut them off
  • Within a month he retook Seoul & drove the North Koreans back to the 38th parallel
  • Pushed North Koreans as far back as the Yalu River (Korean border w/ China)
  • US redefined its war aims: Rather than just concentrating on a policy of containment, it decided on a policy of ‘rollback’  meant liberating North Koreans from Communist rule & reuniting Korea
  • China became concerned for its own security
  • November 27,1950, a force of 200,000 Chinese joined 150,000 North Koreans & sent the UN troops into a rapid retreat

Role played by outside forces

  • Pyongyang was recaptured in December
  • End of 1950 North & their allies had retaken all land up to the 38th parallel
  • January 1951: UN forces recovered their technological advantage & the Chinese army was forced to retreat
  • The UN forces had technological superiority , but Chinese forces were larger in number
  • Mao provided unlimited numbers of ‘volunteers’ to defeat UN forces
  • MacArthur suggested the use of nuclear weapons against the Chinese  Truman against this  scared Stalin would retaliate by using it’s own nuclear weapons
  • MacArthur relieve of command in April 1951

End of the Korean War

  • Battle lines stabilized near the 38th parallel  stalemate 1951-1953
  • Main conflict: repatriation of POW’s  US & UN argued for voluntary returns, Chinese would only agree if a majority of North Koreans would return voluntarily, but this did not happen
  • Stalin did not want to accept a Communist defeat in Korea
  • His death in March 1953 = critical to the end of the Korean War
  • Power struggled ensued in Soviet leadership  Korea no longer regarded as crucial to Soviet Power & influence
  • New US president was Dwight Eisenhower  election was partly based on withdrawal from Korea
  • Therefore, the 2 main powers did not see Korea as vital to their interest
end of the korean war
End of the Korean War
  • The war ended in a ceasefire; there was no victory
  • Ended on July 27th, 1953 with a truce; armistice signed
  • North Korea and South Korea remain divided
  • Tensions still exist today
the korean armistice agreement
The Korean Armistice Agreement
  • Longest negotiated armistice in history (negotiated over 2 years and 17 days)
  • 18 official copies; tri-lingual
  • Went into effect at 10 pm on July 27th, 1953
  • Signed by US Army Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr., UN Command Delegate, North Korean Gen. Nam Il, and volunteers from the People’s Republic of China
  • Purely a military document (no nation is a signatory)
the korean armistice agreement1
The Korean Armistice Agreement:
  • Suspended open hostilities
  • Withdrew military forces and equipment from a 4000 meter wide zone (created a buffer between the two zones)
  • Prevented both sides from entering the air, ground, or seas on opposing sides
  • Released POWs
  • Establishes the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) + other agencies – used to ensure that the truce terms were followed
  • A committee of representatives of neutral countries was established to decide the fate of the POWs: The Neutral Nations' Repatriation Commission
    • Czechoslovakia, India, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland
  • Many Chinese and North Korean POWs did not want to return to their life under communism; staged a violent protest
  • Decided that they could choose their own fate: either stay or return to their home land
  • September 1953: 88,559 POWs were exchanged
  • The Neutral Nations’ Repatriation Commission took custody of POWs that refused to return home
ceasefire peace
Ceasefire ≠ Peace
  • The Korean Armistice Agreement was NOT a peace treaty; North Korea and South Korea are still technically at war
  • Was intended as a temporary measure
  • General Nam Il (signatory on behalf of North Korea) said that it was a made to be a ceasefire “until a final peace settlement is achieved”
  • Peace settlement never came
  • Attempt to make peace settlements occurred in a conference in Geneva (1954); no agreements settled
  • Tensions between the two nations are still high
  • Border between North Korea and South Korea is the most heavily militarised border in the world
the role of the un
The Role of the UN
  • During negotiations, the UN made a command for the exchange of sick or wounded POWs; Communists agreed
  • After the armistice was signed, both sides charged each other of war crimes (torture, starvation of POWs); N.Korea and China accused of brain washing POWs – UN condemned such acts
  • The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed by the UN and the Communists (N.Korea and China; South Korea not a signatory)
the settlement remains unstable
The Settlement Remains Unstable
  • The two nations still remain divided
  • High tensions still exist
  • Provocations from North Korea
  • Precautions taken to ensure that the armistice isn’t violated have fallen apart
      • The Neutral nations Supervisory Commission, originally comprised of Sweden, Switzerland, Poland, and Czechoslovakia now only consists of Sweden and Switzerland
      • The role of the MAC has diminished (with North Korea's refusal to acknowledge South Korean Army general as the chief representative)
  • “The Korean War Armistice Agreement is both an important historical and currently relevant document for the security structure of the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and beyond.” – Sarah K. Yun, Director of Public Affairs and Regional Issues for the Korea Economic Institute

Works Cited And Consulted

  • Armistice agreement for the restoration of the south korean state (1953). (n.d.).
      • Retrieved from
  • Armistice ends the korean war. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Armstrong, C. (2010, May 24). The korean war never ended. Retrieved from
  • Jets and aircraft of the korean war. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • The korean war. (2005, April 25). Retrieved from
  • The korean war summary & analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Timeline: North korea – key events since the end of the korean war. (2010,
    • November 23). Retrieved from
  • Signing of armistice ends korean war. (2012, July 27). Retrieved from
  • What the korean war cost the united states. (n.d.). Retrieved from