The Korean War (Korean: 한국 전쟁, Chinese: 朝鲜战争), was a conflict between North Korea, supported by China and the Soviet Union, and South Korea, supported by the United Nations and the United States.
In the three years of the conflict, about three million people died, most of them civilians.
The war began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded the South.
At the end of the Second World War, the territories under the domination of the Japanese Empire were freed. Korea was divided along the 38th parallel into two states: the northern region entered the orbit of communist influence, while the south was controlled by the American administration.
Two states were born in 1948, one socialist under the leadership of Kim Il-sung, and one capitalist under the leadership of Syngman Rhee. Both governments claimed to be the only legitimate regime, and never accepted the border as permanent.
On June 25, 1950, North Korean troops crossed the border and began their advance on the territory of South Korea.
The United Nations Security Council authorized the formation of a United Nations Command and the sending of troops to thwart the invasion of North Korea. 21 countries joined the initiative, led by the United States which provided 90% of the military forces.
After two months of conflict, the troops of the South Korean Army and the American troops, were forced to retreat within the so-called Pusan perimeter.
In September 1950 an ambitious counter-offensive was launched. During this operation, numerous northern troops were cut off, while the rest of the North Korean troops withdrew over the Yalu River, on the border with China.
From the outset of the conflict, the People’s Republic of China began preparations to invade Korea if necessary. Five days before the invasion of the south, Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, decided to send a group of intelligence soldiers to weave better communications with the North Korean leadership. A week later Mao and Zhou Enlai discussed military preparations for the Korean conflict during a conference. On July 15, Deng Hua, one of the most talented Chinese commanders, was put in charge of the Chinese effort to coordinate all preparations for the upcoming clash. On August 20, Zhou Enlai warned the United Nations that China, as a country close to North Korea, would intervene in the conflict to protect Chinese national security. When United Nations troops crossed the 38th parallel on October 1, 1950, the Soviet ambassador, at Stalin’s request, informed Mao and Zhou to send 5 or 6 divisions to Korea to support Kim II-sung.
From 2 to 5 October, the Chinese leaders, in a series of tormented meetings, decided to intervene. Mao and Zhou were in favor of military intervention. Peng Dehuai was selected as the commander of the Chinese forces in Korea.
On October 19, 1950, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army forces crossed the Yalu River, and officially entered the war.
Chinese troops reached the capital of South Korea in late December.
During this time, Seoul was captured four times, and northern troops were driven back to the starting point, the 38th parallel.
Over the following two years, the front was stabilized, and the conflict turned into a war of friction. The American Air Force, however, continued to massively bomb the northern territories, and for the first time, humanity witnessed aerial combat between American and Soviet jets.
The war ended on July 27, 1953, with the Korean Armistice Agreement. A Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was created to separate the two Koreas, and prisoners from both factions were returned.
A peace treaty was never signed, therefore, at least until April 2018, the war was still officially underway. On this occasion, the leaders of the two Koreas met in the DMZ and agreed to start work on formally ending the Korean War.
However, in June 2020, North Korea blew up the liaison office used for negotiations in the DMZ.
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