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The Korean War
Causes of the Korean War
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Click here to listen to Warren Austin reports on the situation in Korea during the invasion across the 38th parallel

The Korean War was sparked by the growing concern of the spread of communism and the hopeful unification of North and South Korea. The Korean War was the first armed confrontation of the Cold War, and expanded the Cold War, which up until then had generally stayed in Europe and was “it was also the only time since the Second World War that two of the world's major military powers, the United States and China, have fought one another.” (http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/korea/tucker.html) Leading up to the Korean War, North and South Korea existed as provisional governments that were competing for control of the Korean peninsula due to the division in Korea. The fight for containment untimely led to the US involvement with the Korean War.

            The Korean peninsula was the closest point on the Asian mainland to Japan. So, “With three powerful neighbors, China, Russia, and Japan, Korea had always had to fight for independence.” (Goldfield, pg 868). However, from 1910 to 1945 it had been oppressed by the Japanese empire and as “WWII ended, Soviet troops moved down the peninsula from the north and America forces landed in the south, creating a situation similar to Germany.” (Goldfield, pg 868). The 38th parallel, which was set by the Russians and Americans as a dividing line between their zones of occupation became a border in Korea. South Korea was independent that was under a conservative government, North Korea, however was supported by the Soviets and advocated radical social and political change. Both, the northern and southern Korean governments saw the 38th parallel as a temporary barrier that could be unified by their rule. “Each crushed political dissent and tried to undermine the other with economic pressure and commando raids.” (Goldfield, pg 869) So, after many years of confrontations the US began to become concerned and begin their involvement in the Korean War.

            On June 25, 1950 North Korea, aided by the Soviet government and Chinese training attacked South Korea and officially started the Korean War. US believed that Russia was behind this and thought that it was a, “ploy to suck America’s limited military resources into Asia before a bigger war came into Europe or the Middle East.” (Goldfield, pg 869) The US termed the “conflict as a police action…under the aegis of the United Nations rather than a war, largely in order to remove the necessity of a congressional declaration of war.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War_caualties) “With the communist victory in China as well as the first nuclear tests in 1949, resulted in a new Us policy called NSC 48/2, which called for the containment to be primary non violent with economic and military aid given to non-communist regimes in Asia.” (http://www.historycentral.com/korea/causes.html) US involvement in the Korean War can be contributed to the onset of communism in the Asian nations.

            The Korean War was the “first armed confrontation of the Cold War and it set the model for many later conflicts. It created the idea of a limitied war, where the two superpowers would fight without descending to an ll out war that could involve nuclear weapons. It also expanded the Cold War, which to that point had mostly been concerned with Europe.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War_casualties) To Korea itself, US and South Korean forces were able to stabilize a strong defensive line that cut diagonally along the 38th parallel. Stabilization of the Korean front allowed for years of negations. “The United States became involved in the war for a number of reasons, and these evolved and shifted over time. Primarily, every American president regarded the enemy in Vietnam--the Vietminh; its 1960s successor, the National Liberation Front (NLF); and the government of North Vietnam, led by *Ho Chi Minh--as agents of global communism. U.S. policymakers, and most Americans, regarded communism as the antithesis of all they held dear. Communists scorned democracy, violated human rights, pursued military aggression, and created closed state economies that barely traded with capitalist countries. Americans compared communism to a contagious disease. If it took hold in one nation, U.S. policymakers expected contiguous nations to fall to communism, too, as if nations were dominoes lined up on end. In 1949, when the Communist Party came to power in China, Washington feared that Vietnam would become the next Asian domino.” (http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/vietnam/causes.htm) The Korean War reinforced the Red Scare and the possible onset of communism to the US. It gave way for more fear of espionage and communist supporters within the US.

            The Korean war was caused by the fight to unify a nation torn between communism and a democratic government. The northern Korean government was supported by the Soviets and promoted radical ideas, while South Korea was supported by the US and a more conservative government. Ultimately the fight to unify the nation brought it into war and with the fear of communism spreading the US became involved with the conflict, which became the first armed confrontation of the Cold War.

 

Works Cited

 

Goldfield, David. The American Journey. Upper Saddle River. New Jersey. Prentice Hall 1998.

 

Korean War. Online. Internet. 23 May 2006. Available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War_casualties

 

Korean War. Online. Internet 23 May 2006. Available http://www.historycentral.com/korea/causes.html

 

Why Study the Korean War. Internet 23 May 2006. Available. http://www.oah.org/pubs/magazine/korea/tucker.html

 

Causes of the Korean War. Internet. 23 May 2006. Available. http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/vietnam/causes.htm

 

 

           

 

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