Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The United Nations was about five years old when the Korean War started even though it was organized to eliminate the need for war among the nations. The Korean War was a great challenge for the United Nations because it was the first war in which it played a major role. The UN was forced into the war because Harry S. Truman sent airplanes and ships to protect South Korean independence. Troops from Communist-ruled North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950 and started the Korean War. The UN demanded that North Korea withdraw because it was violating international peace. When the Communists refused to obey the demand, the UN requested that the sixteen members send military aide to South Korea. Forty-one countries sent military equipment, food, and other supplies. Ninety percent of the troops, military equipment, and supplies were provided by the United States. North Korea received military equipment from the Soviet Union and had China fighting on their side. The Korean War was one of the bloodiest wars in history with about a million South Korean civilians killed and several million left homeless. About 580,000 UN and South Korean troops and about 1,600,000 Communist troops were killed, wounded, or reported missing. The UN and North Korea signed an armistice agreement on July 27, 1953 to end the Korean War. A permanent peace treaty has never been signed by South Korea and North Korea, and United States military forces are in South Korea to this day in order to discourage a resumption of hostilities between the two Korean countries. A recent problem between the two countries was a ship explosion that South Korea blames on North Korea. The causes of the Korean War began when the Japanese gained control of Korea in 1895 and made it a part of Japan in 1910. When the Allies defeated Japan in World War II (1939-1945), United States and Soviet forces moved into Korea. When the war ended, Soviet troops occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel of north latitude. This is an imaginary line that cuts Korea approximately in half. American troops occupied Korea south of the 38th parallel. The impotency of the United Nations was exhibited again when the UN General Assembly declared in 1947 that elections should be held through Korea to choose one government for the entire country. The Soviet Union was opposed to this idea and would not permit elections in North Korea. The people of South Korea elected a national assembly on May 10, 1948, and set up the government of the Republic of Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was established on September 9 by North Korean Communists. Both North and South Korea claimed the entire country, and their troops clashed near the border several times between 1948 and 1950. When the United States removed its last troops from Korea in 1949 and indicated in early 1950 that Korea was not in the main U.S. defense line in Asia, the Communists decided the time was right for military action. The North Korean Army had about 135,000 soldiers when it invaded South Korea. Many of those soldiers had fought for China and the Soviet Union during World War II. North Korea also had airplanes, artillery, and tanks. South Korea had about 95,000 soldiers in its army; they also had few planes or heavy guns and no tanks and could put up little resistance to the enemy attack. South Korean and UN forces were about 1,110,000 at greatest strength. Of that number, about 590,000 were South Koreans, 480,000 were Americans, and about 39,000 came from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. There were about 260,000 soldiers from North Korea at the peak of the war with another 780,000 soldiers sent from China. A cease-fire was proposed on June 23, 1951, were deadlocked by late April 1952, and resumed on April 26, 1953. An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and ended the fighting. A Demilitarized Zone about two and a half miles wide along the final battle line divided the two sides. South Korea gained about 1,500 square miles. Both sides agreed not to increase their military strength/ About 88,559 prisoners were exchanged in September 1953. The United States spent about $67 billion dollars on the war, and all parts of Korea were damaged. Facts for this blog post came from an article by Lloyd C. Gardner in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, pp 379-384.