In the backdrop of North Korea exhibiting a new missile amidst Joe Biden’s inauguration as the US President, let us take a look at the peak of the conflict between the countries, which occurred in the Korean War starting in 1950.
Crux of the Matter
Korea was under Japanese rule since the early 20th century. It was divided after World War II along the 38th parallel, which is the popular name of latitude 38° N.
- Area to the North of the line – Russians occupied and appointed ‘communist dictator’ Kim Il Sung.
- Area to the South of the line – US occupied and appointed ‘anti-communist dictator’ Syngman Rhee.
Conflict started immediately after the division – 10,000 North and South Korean soldiers killed in skirmishes even before the war.
- 25 June 1950: Korean war began – 75,000 soldiers from North Korea stormed across the ‘38th parallel’.
- The war over border conflict, the spread of communism state, and the ‘cold war’ between Soviet and US.
- The US considered intervention vital to curb the spread of communism and Soviet influence – the latter didn’t fight but aided its communist allies with supplies.
- South Korean forces were ill-equipped – North Korea captured former’s capital Seoul in 3 days.
- 5 July 1950: US and United Nations forces land to aid South Korea but suffered heavy casualties initially. US Gen. Douglas MacArthur also commanded the UN forces.
- September: Seoul under UN control as the US launched ‘Inch’on Landing’ (mass amphibious attack).
- October: UN forces now captured North Korean capital Pyongyang and advanced towards the Yalu river which separates it from China.
- November 1950: China invaded North Korea after UN forces refused to stop while also fearing for its own border.
- July 1951: Truce talks began. However, fight still continued as talks repeatedly failed.
- October 1952: Notably, US bombed North Korea capital Pyongyang continuously for 2 months.
- 27 July 1953: UN, US, China and North Korea signed an armistice (rejected by South Korea). SK didn’t sign the armistice over the division of Korea – truce is held informally.
Technically the war is not over as no formal peace treaty was signed after the temporary armistice. 5-6 million casualties were reported in the war with around 50% to 70% of them being civilians.
The US has since shared a cordial relationship with South Korea. It is in stark contrast to the strained relation with North Korea. The question remains over which method Biden would use to deal with North Korea and its authoritarian rule.
- North Korea’s human rights record is often considered to be the worst in the world and has been globally condemned, with the United Nations, the European Union, and groups such as Human Rights Watch all critical of the country’s record.
- The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It is established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea.
- In South Korea, the war is usually referred to as “625” or the “6–2–5 Upheaval“, reflecting the date of its commencement on 25 June