The Korean War (South Korean: Korean: 6.25 전쟁, 한국전쟁; Hanja: 韓國戰爭; RR: Yugio Jeonjaeng, Hanguk Jeonjaeng; North Korean: Korean: 조국해방전쟁; Hanja: 祖國解放戰爭; MR: Choguk haebang chŏnjaeng, “Fatherland Liberation War”; 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) was a war between North Korea (with the support of China and the Soviet Union) and South Korea (with the support of the United Nations, principally from the United States).
The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following clashes along the border and insurrections in the south. The war ended unofficially on 27 July 1953 in an armistice.
After the surrender of Japan, at the end of World War II, on 15 August 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into two zones of occupation. The Soviets administered the northern-half and the Americans administered the southern-half. In 1948, as a result of Cold War tensions, the occupation zones became two sovereign states. A socialist state was established in the north under the totalitarian leadership of Kim Il-sung and a capitalist state in the south under the authoritarian leadership of Syngman Rhee. Both governments of the two new Korean states claimed to be the sole legitimate government of all of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent.
North Korean military (Korean People’s Army, KPA) forces crossed the border and advanced into South Korea on 25 June 1950. The United Nations Security Council denounced the North Korean move as an invasion, and authorized the formation of the United Nations Command and the dispatch of forces to Korea to repel it.These UN decisions were taken without participation of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, both of which supported North Korea. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the UN force, with the United States providing around 90% of the military personnel.
After the first two months of war, South Korean Army (ROKA) and the US forces rapidly dispatched to Korea were on the point of defeat. As a result, the ROKA and US troops retreated to a small area behind a defensive line known as the Pusan Perimeter. In September 1950, an amphibious UN counter-offensive was launched at Incheon, and cut off many KPA troops in South Korea.
Those who escaped envelopment and capture were forced back north. UN forces invaded North Korea in October 1950 and moved rapidly towards the Yalu River—the border with China—but on 19 October 1950, Chinese forces of the People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) crossed the Yalu and entered the war. The surprise Chinese intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces and Chinese forces were in South Korea by late December.
In these and subsequent battles, Seoul was captured four times, and communist forces were pushed back to positions around the 38th parallel, close to where the war started. After this the front stabilized and the last two years of fighting became a war of attrition. The war in the air, however, was never a stalemate. North Korea was subject to a massive US bombing campaign. Jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat for the first time in history, and Soviet pilots covertly flew in defense of their communist allies.
The fighting ended on 27 July 1953 when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to separate North and South Korea, and allowed the return of prisoners. However, no peace treaty was ever signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war, engaged in a frozen conflict. In April 2018, the leaders of North and South Korea met at the DMZ and agreed to work toward a treaty to formally end the Korean War.
The Korean War was among the most destructive conflicts of the modern era, with approximately 3 million war fatalities and a larger proportional civilian death toll than World War II or the Vietnam War. It incurred the destruction of virtually all of Korea’s major cities, thousands of massacres by both sides, including the mass killing of tens of thousands of suspected communists by the South Korean government, and the torture and starvation of prisoners of war by the North Korean command. North Korea became among the most heavily bombed countries in history. wiki