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Map of Part of Korea
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Who was responsible for the outbreak of the war in Korea?

As a result of a diplomatic agreement reached near the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union took possession of Korea in 1945, with the 38th parallel dividing the Soviet zone in the north from the American zone in the south. The United Nations planned for nationwide elections to set up a new government, but the elections were never held.  The U.S. pressed Moscow for talks on Korea as early as 29 August 1947, but nothing happened as relations between the Americans and Russians deteriorated through the course of that year.
Although the Soviets withdrew from North Korea in 1948, the U.S. postponed its departure from South Korea, fearing a pro-peasant, pro-communist takeover. In 1948, a soviet-style government emerged in the north, while the United States recognized the Republic of Korea in the south.  By mid-1949, the United States had finally removed the bulk of its troops.
On 25 June1950, the North Korean army crossed the 38th parallel and attacked South Korea. At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the members demanded the immediate withdrawal of the North Korean troops and called upon U N members to furnish appropriate assistance to South Korea. The United States, which felt a special responsibility toward the country, quickly dispatched air and ground forces. A U N command took charge, and, for the first time in recent history, an organized international force fought aggression (Ninety percent of the troops were either American or South Korean.).  The UN could take such decisive action because the Soviet representative to the Security Council had been boycotting meetings (He had walked out 10 January 1950.) over the refusal of the UN to seat a new representative from communist China; thus, the Soviet representative was not present to exercise a veto.
After long negotiations a truce (with Polish Czech, Swiss, Swedish and Indian monitors) went into effect in July of 1953, recognizing the fact that Korea remained divided along the 38th parallel. By the war's end, the U.S. had sent over a quarter of a million men halfway around the world.  Total casualties in the conflict numbered approximately one million dead (U.S. combat deaths 33,629; 20,617 other deaths; and 103,284 wounded).

  • 16 February 1948, North Korea proclaimed a People's Democratic Republic.
  • 15 August 1948, Independent Republic of Korea in south proclaimed following UN-supervised elections.
  • 9 September 1948, North Korea claimed sovereignty over South.
  • 21 October 1948, General Douglas MacArthur arrived in South Korea for inspection.
  • 25 June 1950, North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel and invaded South Korea.
  • 26 June 1950, President Harry Truman pledged U.S. military aid.
  • 27 June 1950, the United Nations voted to provide direct assistance to South Korea.
  • 1 July 1950, U.S. troops began to arrive (French and British soon after).
  • 16 September 1950, U.S. troops landed at Inchon not far from Seoul.  Macarthur rapidly cleared south and crossed 38th parallel on 1 October and advanced north.
  • 26 October 1950, Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, captured.
  • 26 November 1950, when U.N. troops approached the Chinese border, China attacked and eventually captured Seoul (4 January 1951).
  • 14 March 1951, U.N. forces again recaptured Seoul.  General Macarthur managed to stabilized a defensive line in the south.
  • 11 April 1951, President Truman dismissed Macarthur as UN commander in Korea.
  • 23 November 1951, demarcation line agreed to, but bombardments, shelling and air war continued (10 July 1950 preliminary talks on cease fire had begun in Kaesong.).
  • 26-27 July 1953, cease fire finally signed at Panmunjon.  About 1 million had died.

See the expanded timeline, Significant Events of the Korean War, created by Kelton Adams-Elkins, Alex English, and Christopher Belcher, former students.


WWW sites
Read Secretary of State Dean Acheson's account of his speech describing the U.S. "defense perimeter" in 1950 in which he neglected to mention Korea and then read President Truman's announcement of his decision to send  troops to Korea. The UN Resolution of 27 June 1950 on Korea, which promised immediate aid is available, as are the Korean Armistice Agreement and Maps of the Korean War (part of the Korean War Project, which includes history, maps, memorials, recollections and POW/MIA information).  There is a U.S. Army site about Combat Actions in Korea and a Korean War military history site.

The Korean War:  The US and Soviet Union in Korea is an ok overview.
The 50th Anniversary of the Korean War site has a timeline and memoirs of modest detail.  FAQ - Korean War provides frequently asked questions about the Korean War, campaign stories from a Chinese perspective and factual descriptions of political aspects unavailable from US sources.  The Korean War:  a Fresh Perspective is ok.

There are a series of articles about Korea in the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP). Most of the Korean War material is included in there, but it is very confusing to use.

Some other suggested site:


Recommended Books
Excellent introductions to recent Korean history are C. J. Eckert, Korea Old and New: A History (1990), Bruce Cumings, The Two Koreas (1984) and David Rees, A Short History of Modern Korea (1988).  See also, David Steinberg, The Republic of Korea:  Economic Transformation and Social Change (1989), Paul Kuznets, Economic Growth and Structure in the Republic of Korea (1977) and Dennis McNamara, The Colonial Origins of Korean Enterprise 1910-1945 (1990).
On the Korean War, see:  Sergei Goncharov, John Lewis, Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners:  Stalin, Mao and the Korean War (1993); Max Hastings, The Korean War (1988); P. Lowe, The Origins of the Korean War (1986); Clay Blair, The Forgotten War:  America in Korea (?); and Callum MacDonald, Korea, the War before Vietnam (?).

Related Events
Cold War
 Chinese Revolution
Mao Zedong

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