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Causes of the Korean War

There are several causes of the Korean War.

If we wish to go as far back as possible, one cause could simply be the fact that the Korean peninsula is rather small, and surrounded by larger areas. Korea is a small peninsula surrounded by China, Russia, and Japan. Because of this, Koreans have often had trouble keeping everyone away and have often fallen under control of neighboring empires. They were controlled by China on and off for over 1000 years.

If we wish to look at something more closely related to the cause, however, we should look at specifically Japan and Korea. In 1904 the Japanese took over Korea, as many countries had done. This took place until the end of the second world war. In the east, there was a war going on with Germany against Adolf Hitler. But, we need to keep in mind there was a war in the west as well, against Japan.

The Soviet Union (led by Joseph Stalin) and the United States made a deal with each other to force the Japanese out of Korea. Together, the United States and the Soviet Union succeeded in freeing Korea from Japanese rule. However, as part of the agreement to form an alliance, the Soviet Union would maintain the top half of Korea after the war, and the United States would do so in the bottom half. The dividing line was the 38th parallel.

After two years, both countries pulled out of Korea, leaving it on its own. In North Korea, where the Soviets had been, a communist government was left behind. The United States left behind a democracy.

And this is where problem begins....Because the two separate governments were left behind and Korea had been split into North Korea and South Korea (1948), each side wished to unify all of Korea again under their own form of government. North Korea formed as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Kim Il Sung was placed as leader (prime minister). In South Korea, Syngman Rhee became president. North Korea wished to unify Korea as communist, while South Korea wished to bring democracy to all of Korea.

As disputes grew, the two sides became more aggressive. The United States pulled out from South Korea, dropping from 40,000 troops to approximately 500 troops. The United States also limited the number of weapons given to South Korea in fear of Syngman Rhee leading an attack on North Korea. A second reason for limiting weapons was a new policy in the United States concerning Asia, NSC 48/2. The Soviets had developed a nuclear bomb by 1949. The communists in China and the Soviet Union were also powerful. The United States felt the best way to aid the area would be non-military in hopes of avoiding further wars. The United States would defend Japan, The Rykus Islands, and the Philippine Islands if attacked by communists, but not Korea.

Unfortunately, North Korea had plans of their own. When Secretary of State Dean Acheson said Korea would not be included in the new defense policy, this further motivated North Korea into an attack.

On June 25th, 1950, North Korean armies crossed the 38th parallel, in hopes of unifying Korea by force. The Korean War had begun.



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