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What sparked the Korean War? (Fall 2012)

            On June 25, 1950, 75,000 soldiers from North Korea crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea, which was the first military intervention during the Cold War. The invasion caused death of 5 million soldiers and civilians. It wasn’t simply a conflict between North and South Korea; it was a war against the idea of communism. As we learned in class communism is a strong politics and government history force. It is a system that rules and impacts the people and can lead to wars. The United States and the United Nations feared that the conflict would become a wider war against Russia and China or even start World War III. The Korean War came to a stop and the peninsula is still divided today, but which factors and events sparked the Korean War in the first place?

            The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese control from 1910 until the end of World War II as a result of the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905, also known as the Eulsa Protective Treaty. The treaty was between the Empire of Japan and the Korean Empire which made Korea a protectorate of the Empire of Japan. Also, the Taft-Katsura Agreement made by Japan and the United States agreed not to interfere with Japan’s occupation in Korea. In 1937, the Governor-General Jiro Minami, banned Korean language, literature and culture in Korea and forced Koreans to pledge their life to Japan. During World War II, Korea’s food, goods, and livestock were used for the benefit of Japan and finally by 1942, 32% of Japanese labor force were by Koreans. In addition, 25% of killing from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were Korean. At the end of World War II other countries did not agree with Japanese rule in Korea, so China, Unite Kingdom, and the United States decided that Korea should become independent through the Cairo Conference.

            At the Potsdam Conference, the Allies came to a conclusion to divide Korea without notifying the Koreans, which contradicted the Cairo Conference. In 1945, Lt. Gen. John R. Hodge of the United States went to Incheon to confirm the termination of the Japanese control of Korea and directly lead the South Korea as the United States Army Military Government. In December 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to rule Korea as a trusteeship along the 38th parallel to make it a free and independent country. 

            The head of the Korean right-wing Representative Democratic Council Syngman Rhee disagreed with the rule of the Soviet Union and the United States, saying all Koreans disapproved the intervention of other countries in Korea because they were ruled by Japan for 35 years. In 1948, South Korea had their first national general elections and elected a president, the American-educated Syngman Rhee. On August 15th 1948, the Republic of Korea was finally established. On the other hand, North Korea led by Kim Il-sung became a communist government with the influence of the Soviet Union. 

            Both Syngman Rhee and Kim Il-Sung had their intentions to unite Korea in their own political beliefs, which created conflicts and rage for both leaders. They are both paramount forces of history, their ideas and beliefs cause a whole nation to commit war and even other countries get involved. North Korea had support from the Soviet Union and China and with their support from both communist countries North Korea prepared to invade South Korea. North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung went to Moscow to ensure Stalin’s support for uniting Korea to a communist government. Stalin agreed with the invasion of South Korea, but disapproved to be directly involved with the invasion and suggested Kim Il-sung to receive support from China. In May 1950 Kim Il-sung was successful in gaining Chinese support from Mao.

            Finally, in June 25th 1950, North Korean People’s Army (KPA) led by Kim Il-sung secretly crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea. The KPA considered Syngman Rhee as a traitor that had crossed the border first, and they wanted to haunt him down and execute him. On June 27th Syngman Rhee evacuated from Seoul and ordered to bomb the bridges across the Han River to cease the KPA from moving forward. On that day the United Nations put South Korea under their authority.

            The invasion of North Korea was not simply a conflict of two small countries, but it was the first step to invade the world with communism. This feared many top decision makers around the world. The Truman Administration didn’t know what to do because Korea wasn’t part of the Asian Defense Perimeter designed by the Secretary of State Acheson. The Administration was worried that the war would quickly spread, resulting in World War III. President Truman of the United States recognized that Japan’s security needed a non-hostile Korea and decided to enter the war. However, the Truman administration was fearful that the intervention would elevate the war to Europe, but there was no way that they could stay back from the conflict because in Truman’s mind if this conflict was left with no intervention it could create a chain reaction that could demolish the United Nations and spread communism all around the world. Without Truman’s decision communism would have spread all around the world creating a World War III, his specific role in history could be the most important force of history during this period of time. The UN Security supported the intervention of the United States to help the South Koreans and to stop the spread of communism.

            The United States instantly initiated the use of air and naval forces in Korea. However, they restrained from transporting ground units because some military advisors believed that North Korea could be suppressed with only the use of air and naval forces. Also, the United States was restraining from the Soviet Union because it wasn’t sure if the Soviet Union was committed to enter the war. On June 27th the Soviet Union state that they will not move against the United States forces in Korea, which led the United States to use ground forces in the Korean conflict.

            Chinese leaders gathered and debated about whether to intervene with the conflict and send troops to North Korea. However, Mao strongly supported the idea and in June 27th 1950, the Chinese entered the war. In addition, to get more support Zhou traveled to the Soviet Union and met with Stalin. During this period of time many leaders play a big role in history and is a great force that moves the history, because his decision results in the involvement of China into the Korean War. Stalin confirmed to send military equipments and goods, but alerted that in order to use the air force they would need two or three months. After returning from the Soviet Union, Zhou met with Mao and sent two hundred thousand Chinese troops to assist North Korea. Mao’s decision to intervene in the Korean War was to confront the most powerful country in the world; at first Mao disagreed to get involved in the Korean conflict; however he believed that a military conflict with the United States was worth it after the United Nations had crossed the 38th parallel. In addition, Mao wanted to demonstrate his power to the communist international community and believed that Stalin would have a positive opinion about him if he intervened in the Korean War.

            The Korean War can be considered as the most aggressive war in history, but it is important to know what events and ideas caused this war. First of all it was the first military intervention during the Cold War. It seemed that the communist countries were just waiting and looking for a reason to go on war. The Korean peninsula was just an excuse to start a communist war. However, at that time Korea was the perfect reason to go on war. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule for 35 years, and finally when World War II was over they had a chance to find their independence and freedom, but with the Potsdam Conference Korea was under the United Nations and was divided into two countries. This can be considered the best reason why the Korean War occurred, because North Korea was supported by the Soviet Union and China which influenced the leaders and the people and created a communist country. We can see that politics and government was a powerful history force during this time. On the other hand, South Korea opposed communism and was supported by the United States and the United Nations.

            The two leaders of North and South Korea and other leaders who were involved in the Korean War play a great role in history. Their different ideas cause conflicts between countries and their decisions can lead countries to be involved in wars. The influence of China and Soviet Union created a leader that supported communism and the desire to unite Korea. The North Korean leader Kim Il-sung wanted to unite Korea with communism and in order to achieve his goal he receives support from China and the Soviet Union and ends up invading South Korea. This individual’s decision causes the world to become involved in war and causes 5 million soldiers and civilians to die. In addition, the leader of China Mao decision to confront the most powerful country in the world and his desire to demonstrate his power to the communist international community causes the war to inflate. On the other hand, the president of the United States Truman played a greater role to equalize the impacts of the communist leaders. Truman’s difficult decision to stop the spread of communism and send troops, naval, and aerial forces to Korea was the paramount action that an individual could have made during this time. Even though the Korean War has not ended and Korea is divided into two countries the great decisions made by Truman has stopped the spread of communism around the world and it influenced the world the most. The Korean War shows us how much a role of a specific individual is an important force of history and that it can even cause the world to go on war.

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