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Korean War
Peace Tension

Korean War
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Like almost every geopolitical change in the modern world, the split of North and South Korea and the subsequent the Korean War, resulted from the Cold War and World War II.

Prior to the WWII, Japan had annexed all of the Korean Empire (read an in-depth account in Korea’s Fight for Freedom by Frederick Arthur Mckenzie). After Japan's defeat, the UN split Korea by the 38th Parallel, giving the North to Soviet Union and the South to the US. Tensions between North and South grew not only because of geopolitical divisions, but also because of the Cold War's ideological battle of capitalism versus communism.

Kim Il Jong, the appointed leader of North Korea, appealed to Joseph Stalin to back an invasion of South Korea. Although Stalin didn't initially think the time was right, a string of key factors changed his mind in 1950: US forces withdrew from South Korea, Mao Zedong won the Chinese Civil War, and Soviets had successfully tested their first nuclear bomb.
Backed and heavily armed by the Soviet Union, North Korea invaded South, quickly taking over a relatively defenseless South Korea. They appealed to the UN for aid. The UN approved deployment of combined forces from over 16 countries, mostly made up of Americans. Under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, the UN forces succeeded in pushing back the North Koreans nearly to the northern border shared with China.

UN-allied countries suspected that China had covertly provided aid to North Korea. When North Korea was about to lose the war, Mao's forces began fighting in the open. He sent in over 250,000 troops and, combined with North Korean troops, they pushed the UN army out of North Korea and recaptured Seoul. UN forces answered by sending in more reinforcements who again repelled the North Koreans. That time they stopped their advance at the 38th Parallel.

By 1953, Stalin was dead, General MacArthur dismissed from service, and President Harry S. Truman replaced by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower sought an end to outright fighting, and active combat of the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953.

For personal accounts of fighting in the air, read Across the Parallel by George Odgers.

By Thad Higa

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