HIS344Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Itch, Syngman Rhee
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Causes of Korean War
1) Political division of Korea by an agreement of the victorious allies at the conclusion of
the pacific war at the end of World War II
2) War between the republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, and
the Democratic People’s republic of Korea (North Korea), at one time supported by the
people’s republic of China and the Soviet Union.
3) 38th parallel increasingly became a political border between two Korean states. Although
reunification negotiations continued in the months preceding the war, tension intensified.
4) Escalated into open warfare, when North Korean forces invaded South Korea on 25
Korea Internal Conflicts
1) Soviet armies had occupied North Korea and Americans in South
2) Each Korean government claimed the whole of the peninsula, and each was itching to
fight for it
3) Failure to hold free elections throughout the Korean Peninsula in 1948 deepened the
division between the two sides; the North established a communist government, while
the South established a right-wing government.
North Korea Attacks South – Seen as provocation
1) North Korea attacked across the 38th parallel. Because the South Korean army had no
armour at all, the North Korean attacks were successful
2) Result: The U.S. pushed a resolution through the UN security Council branding the
North Koreans as aggressors, demanding a cessation of hostilities
Why US Entered
1) Major test for the policy of containment – if the U.S. allowed Korea to “fall” to the
Communists, it might send a message to the Soviet Union that the U.S. would not back
up its commitments to Western Europe
2) Chiang's Kai-shek could not hold on in Formosa (former name of Taiwan) without an
American commitment nor could Rhee Syngman (Korean president) in South Korea hold
without an American commitment. The U.S. Air Force and Navy needed a justification to
retain their bases in Japan.
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