The Korean War originated in the division of Korea into South Korea and North Korea after World War II (1939-1945). Efforts to reunify the peninsula after the war failed, and in 1948 the South proclaimed the Republic of Korea and the North established the People’s Republic of Korea. In 1949, border fighting broke out between the North and the South. On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crossed the dividing line and invaded the South. Soon, in defense of the South, the United States joined the fighting under the banner of the United Nations (UN), along with small continents of British, Canadian, Australian, and Turkish troops. In October 1950, China joined the war on the North’s side. By the time a cease-fire agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, millions of soldiers and civilians had perished. The armistice ended the fighting, but Korea has remained divided for decades since and subject to the possibility of a new war at any time.
The Korean War was one of the most destructive of the 20th century. Perhaps as many as 4 million Koreans died throughout the peninsula, two-thirds of them civilians. China lost up to 1 million soldiers, and the United States suffered 54,246 dead and 103,284 wounded. Other UN nations suffered 3,322 dead and 11,949 wounded. Decades later, Koreans still seek reconciliation and eventual reunification of their torn nation.
From the day when North Koreans attacked South Korea on June 25, 1950 to the day of the armistice on July 27, 1953, the events of the Korean War revealed the mass destruction, pain, and suffering Koreans had to endure.
The Korean war can be divided into three phases.
The first phase began on June 25, 1950 and ended on the day United Nations (U.N) forces thrusted into North Korea’s territory.
The second phase of the Korean war was essentially the Southern unit’s attack and retreat from North Korea.
The last phase of the war consisted of the “see-saw” fighting on the thirty-eighth parallel, stalemate, and negotiation talks.
On June 25, 1950 at 4 a.m., 70,000 North Korean troops with Russian T-34 tanks crossed the thirty-eighth parallel. President Truman appealed to the United Nations to take “police action” against the “unwarranted” attack. Hence, under the “name of the United Nations”, the United States was able to send troops and forces.
On June 29, the North Korean Army, Korean People’s Army (KPA), pressed southward and captured Seoul. By August, KPA forces were on their drive toward the Pusan perimeter, which consisted of the northern area of Pohang, southern area of Chinju-Masan region, and Taegu as the major center city.
In the second phase of the Korean war, KPA forces were in retreat. In two days, the Southern forces were approximately 25 miles north of the parallel. Within a week, they captured Wonson, located on the eastern side of North Korea. Thereafter, they marched toward the Yalu River with almost no resistance from the Northern units.
But Northern forces were not as successful as their first attack because by the end of January 1951, the U.N forces were back on the Han river and by March 14, they were able to retake Seoul from North Korea’s hands. The conditions in Korea during this time was one of desperation. One can only imagine the chaos not only in Seoul, which exchanged hands 4 times, but in every city in both North and South Korea. Koreans frantically fled their homes in search for refugee camps, safety, shelter, and food.
Throughout mid-1951 to 1953, negotiation for peace treaty stalled and reopened. A major issue that stalled negotiations was whether POWs should be repatriated on voluntary basis or not. In addition, accusations about war crimes committed by United States stall ed negotiations.
By June 8, 1953, the basic agreement over the POW issue was settled. Both sides agreed on the principle of voluntary repatriation. And by June 17, agreement on the final truce-demarcation line became finalized. Nevertheless, everyone but Syngman Rhee was pleased with the negotiations. He jeopardized the negotiations allowing the release and escape of 27,000 Korean POWs on June 18. This angered North Koreans who wanted United States to take the responsibility to make certain that the negotiations