Saturday, October 27, 2007

Korean War

this is a response to the seafood soup i had yesterday at the korean stall - i decided to read up past Presidents of Republic of Korea (South Korea), which i eventually read about the Korean War too.

brief facts:

Korea's annexation by Japan
- China was defeated by Japan just before the turn into 20th century (1st Sino-Japanese War).

- Japan in return gained control of Korea (annexation) from 1910-1945.

Separation of Korea after WWII
- At the end of WWII, Japan surrendered Korea to US and Soviet Union (Russia), both of them kept their forces close to the 38th parallel. 38th parallel is the demarcation line between the 2 Koreas today.

- US had supported an election in whole of Korea, as Koreans had opposed another round of foreign control after Japan. Soviet feared that the election was in favour of South Korea, thus North Korea boycotted the election.

Rise of ideological dictators
- Syngman Rhee, the 1st President of ROK was elected in 1948. At North Korea, Kim II-sung was endorsed by the Soviet to be the first communist hardline ruler. With two dictators with similar ideologies to unify Korea, skirmishes began.

- Notably, Soviet was not too intent on supporting Kim, as it would mean war with the US. However, Stalin decided to approve an attack by Kim into South Korea, before the latter became strong enough to defend itself. North Korea started the Korean War in 25 June 1950.

- The communists gained control of Seoul in just 3 days, on the 28 June 1950 thanks to good planning and superiority in armour and artillery.

UN rushes past 38th parallel and occupies Pyongyang
- In reaction, UN drafted a new resolution which enabled US to intervene. For nearly 2 months, UN had little success and in control of only 10% of Korea peninsula. However, the combination of US air raids and influx of Japanese soldiers bolstered the morale of the UN troops, which launched a counterattack in early September 1950.

- The UN troops drove the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel. However as US desired the goal of unifying Korea, they pursued a rollback policy, which China saw as a threat since US will inevitably attack China's bases that are supporting North Korea. The UN troops occupied Pyongyang in October 1950.

China fights back, communists occupies Seoul
- US underestimated China's ability in the war, and thus was roundly defeated with heavy casualties. Humiliated, it retreated to Pusan. Seoul was recaptured by communists in January 1951.

US reassembles Eighth Army, UN reinvents war strategy
- Over several Operations (Ops Roundup, Killer, Ripper, Courageous and Tomahawk), the US army pushed themselves northwards, despite similar offensives by the Chinese. US did consider using atomic bombs, which was infamously used to force Japan's surrender in WWII.

- UN troops stopped at Line Kansas, just northwards from 38th parallel this time.

- Little movement were felt from July 1951 to July 1953, and military troops on both sides attempted to regain all areas around the 38th parallel.

- Eventually a ceasefire was established; with North Korean troops on one side and South Korean plus US troops on the other.

- There have been no major incidents since, however both Koreas are still technically at war. This is because strongman Syngman Rhee didn't sign the armistice agreement together with US and Pyongyang.

- The cross occupation of Seoul and Pyongyang in just 2 years is intriguing. My admiration for all the troops that really persevered.

- I read with interest that South Korea's economy was in greater shambles compared to the northern neighbour after Korean War. North Korea's recovery was faster until 1975. Although Syngman Rhee was a strongman dictator, he apparently led a clean government towards modernization and industrialization, leading to today's successful South Korea.

- US probably wanted the world to forget its humiliating retreat midway Korean War - the latter is also known as the Forgotten War.

- Being a Singaporean born in the 1980s, i have not tasted any war in history. Of course, i'm not for any war to break out, but would want to understand and appreciate hardships suffered by forefathers in earlier years. Despite the strong economy in Singapore itself, we must be aware that many global situations are not within our control - someday we will be in trouble. Thus my message to friends and myself is not to be overly complacent of ourselves and forget about the past.

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