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June 25: The Day North Korea Invaded South Korea in 1950
The Korean War was suspended by a truce....
Could it happen again?
Recently President Obama looked across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from South Korea into Communist North Korea following a series of such visits by U. S. presidents dating back nearly sixty years.
The fact that the DMZ has been there for them to look across all those years would probably have surprised a great many people, probably including all but a few of the negotiators who worked out the truce agreement that was signed by the warring parties on July 27, 1953 leaving South Korea with a net gain of some 1500 square miles, but at a loss of nearly one million South Koreans and property losses of over one billion dollars.
The loss in military lives on the United Nations side (including over 58,000 South Korean military dead) was almost 580,000 dead, wounded, and those considered missing and prisoners. On the communist side, North Korea is said to have lost over 620,000 of their military dead, wounded, or considered missing and prisoners, while the Chinese Communist military is said to have lost over 965,000. A prisoner exchange in September 1953 saw over 88,000 prisoners exchanged by all participants, while more than 21,500 Chinese and North Korean military refused to return to their homelands, a decision matched initially by 325 South Korean military, 21 American military, and one British military soldier.
An attempt to unify Korea and reach a permanent peace accord was made in Geneva in 1954. It failed, and the combatants were left with what has remained the uneasy truce.
When the Korean War started on June 25, 1950, the western world and South Korea were apparently caught by surprise. It may be that the Soviet Union (USSR) was caught by surprise, too. Their seat on the UN Security Council was empty in protest to Nationalist China's seat on the Security Council and the USSR delegate was not present to veto the vote for all UN members to support South Korea. Even though the USSR delegate soon returned to the meetings of the Security Council, the USSR provided support and military equipment to the North Koreans, while 15 other UN members supported the South Koreans militarily with forces on the ground and 26 other UN members provided food and other aid to the South Koreans. Communist China was not a UN member at the time, but took part in framing the truce.
While the North Koreans at one time had almost completed the conquest of South Korea, South Korea and its UN allies at one time had almost completed the conquest of North Korea.
Both North Korea and its communist Chinese ally, and South Korea and its UN allies, at one time or another occupied Seoul and Pyongyang (each other's capitols.) The fighting was vicious and bloody, one of the fiercest in modern history, and the first in which jet aircraft fought against each other.
Much of the animosity and suspicion of those days sixty two years ago persists today with violent incidents scattered through those intervening years. While the Korean War ended with an agreement that military forces would not be increased, North Korea has developed their own atomic weapons and intercontinental missiles, and is known to have increased the size of its military.
The U. S. still maintains a military presence in South Korea, presently numbering approximately 28,500 composed primarily of U. S. Army personnel, augmented by Navy, Air Force, and Marine contingents.
Veterans from the Korean War are entering their 80's and 90's. Many have passed away feeling that their stories are all but forgotten by this generation. Furthermore, it took a major effort before ground was finally broken on the Mall in Washington, DC in June of 1992 for a unique memorial to those who served and sacrificed in the Korean War.
It is taking even longer for the war itself to ever be finished. Both the South Koreans and the North Koreans say they are anxious for Korea to be unified, but the Korea the two sides visualize is very different depending on which side you talk to.
Meanwhile, North Korea spends an inordinate amount of its available budget to arm, modernize, and train its current military....for a renewal of the conflict?
© 2012 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.
Brush up on some facts you should want to know:
- Korean War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An almost forgotten war which the United Nations actually fought! Here is a brief history all Americans should know.