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Start of the Korean War

On this day, the Korean War began as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea army crossed the 38th Parallel, launching a full-scale invasion of South Korea. Their goal was to forcibly reunite the two Koreas which had been divided in the aftermath of WWII. This conflict was met with international condemnation as the UN organized a relief army. This marked the beginning of the Korean War, one of the first conflicts of the Cold War. 

Overview of the War

After World War II, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel into two zones of occupation. The northern half was under the influence of the Soviet Union and became a communist state. Meanwhile, the south fell under the US sphere of influence and became a democracy.

His division was meant to be temporary and the country would be reunited at a later date, but increasing tensions between these two superpowers prevented either side from coming to a satisfactory conclusion. This angered both Koreas as North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, and South Korean president Syngman Rhee both claimed legitimacy over the entire peninsula.

Kim Il Sung even wanted to reunite Korea by military force and after getting permission from the Soviet Union, began his invasion on June 25, 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea. This aggressive move took the poorly-trained South Korean military off-guard and the Northern army made rapid advances across the country, capturing most of the South, including the capital, Seoul.

War Crimes During the Korean War

The Korean War saw numerous atrocities and massacres committed by both North and South Korean forces. From the war’s onset, civilians were often targeted. Investigations by the South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2005–2010) revealed that 82% of Korean War-era massacres were perpetrated by South Korean forces, while 18% were by North Korean forces. The commission also examined over 200 alleged mass killings of South Korean civilians by the U.S. military, confirming several, including a napalm attack on a cave that killed 360 people and an airstrike that killed 197 refugees in a field.

North Korea suffered extensive destruction, with almost every substantial building reduced to rubble. Major General William F. Dean, the highest-ranking U.S. POW, reported that most North Korean cities and villages he saw were either destroyed or desolate. North Korea, one of the most heavily bombed countries in history, endured 635,000 tons of bombs, including 32,557 tons of napalm, dropped by the U.S. during the Korean war.

Soon, during the Korean War, the South Koreans were forced back to a small corner on the southeastern coast, and it seemed as if their fall was inevitable. When the United Nations learned about this, the US intervened and proposed sending military aid. A UN coalition of forces from various countries, including the UK, Canada, Turkey, Australia, the Philippines, and several others pledged support.

This relief force took the North Korean army off guard and managed to drive them back across the border. However, rather than stop there, the coalition general, Douglas McArthur continued to advance into North Korea to reunite Korea under the South’s rule. Seeing the Korean war going so poorly for Kim Il Sung, China entered the war in October 1950 to support North Korea, significantly escalating the conflict.

This led to a seesaw of advances and retreats across the 38th parallel. However, neither side could achieve a complete victory. While advances stalled, negotiations began in  1951, though fighting dragged on until July 1953 when an armistice was finally agreed on.

The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a heavily fortified border that still exists today, effectively freezing the territorial status quo. However, while a truce was signed, the war technically never ended as South and North Korea never signed a peace treaty.

As the Korean war raged on, US President Truman released statement sharing his thoughts on the conflict and urging people aid South Korea. 

“Communism was acting in Korea, just as Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese had ten, fifteen, and twenty years earlier. I felt certain that if South Korea was allowed to fall, Communist leaders would be emboldened to override nations closer to our own shores. If the Communists were permitted to force their way into the Republic of Korea without opposition from the free world, no small nation would have the courage to resist threat and aggression by stronger Communist neighbors.”

-President Truman, Former US President.
korean war letters
korean war letters

While a treaty was never signed between North and South Korea, if you want to create your own treaty, the Vintage Letter website can help you create some authentic different documents. You can find all the tools you need here.

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