At the end of World War Two, Korea was divided into two along the 38th parallel – the communist-occupied North (then called The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea) and the South (The Republic of Korea). The Korean War began on 25 June 1950, with the invasion of North Korea (supported by the Russians) in to the South and the capital, Seoul, fell to the communists in three days.
15 member countries (with American soldiers forming the bulk of the army) under the United Nations Security Council sent in troops in an attempt to end this war and ultimately stop the threat of Communist expansion into Asia. When the UN troops under General MacArthur advanced towards the north near the Chinese border at Yalu River, the Chinese Peoples Liberation Amy retaliated and forced the UN forces out of North Korea. Both sides faced a stalemate along the border separating the North and the South during the peace talks at Panmunjom that lasted for two years.
Two events in 1953 caused a breakthrough in the peace talks – the death of Joseph Stalin, Premier of the Soviet Union and the election of new US President, Dwight Eisenhower. An armistice signed in 1953 finally brought an end to a war that had lasted for three years (June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953). Casualties on both sides were heavy, with over 150,000 deaths among the UN troops and close to four million Korean civilians killed.
This section provides reference sources that discuss the causes of the Korean War, how and why it was exacerbated after the intervention of the UN forces and how a peace agreement was reached after three war-torn years.
||951.902; 951.9042; 951.95042
(listed in alphabetical order)
President Eisenhower speaks about the Korean truce and hails it as an indicator of the power of the US and its allies to withstand and rebuff communist aggression.
In response to the United Nations’ call for more military aid in South Korea, eight countries, including Britain, Siam, Turkey, Canada, and Australia, pledged almost 30,000 ground
troops to the South Korean war effort, augmenting the 90,000 American troops already engaged there.
United Nations armed forces land behind the lines in Communist South Korea in a surprise strike on North Korea’s internal supply lifelines.
The writer deconstructs the myth of North Korean General Kim Il Sung, questioning his past achievements and examining the allegations that he is a Soviet-installed puppet.
- Hughes, R. (1951, February 2). Whither MacArthur?. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Supreme Commander of the United Nations forces in Korea, General MacArthur is criticised for the defeat of his forces to the communists, as well as his ill-advised military strategy and refusal of counsel.
The Korean War has resulted in increased cooperation and co-dependency between China and the Soviet Union, compelling them to put territorial disputes and ideological differences aside temporarily in the light of their mutually beneficial military alliance.
This article presents an analysis of the political and economic factors behind the conflict between North and South Korea, and the machinations of the US and USSR that drove Korean tactics during the war.
North Korean forces reach the South Korean capital of Seoul, forcing the South Korean government to relocate to Suuon. The US Congress debates the provision of more arms aid for the South, but remains reluctant to enter the war directly.
The United Nations alliance and the Communist forces sign an official truce in Korea, and prepare to release thousands of prisoners.
President Eisenhower announces American acceptance of the communist proposal for a truce in Korea, and urges South Korea’s President Rhee to end the prolonged fighting.
The news article reports that American troops make a northward advance to take on a North Korean column and are expected to clash with them for the first time. The US is supported by forces from United Nations member countries, as the Chinese Communists mobilise their own armies to enter the Korean campaign.
Even though a ceasefire has been agreed in Korea, Communist China’s plans to expand its control in Asia remain unchanged, as they continue to target South Korea, Japan, and South East Asia to spread communism.
A British prisoner-of-war sheds light on his experience of being interned in a North Korean camp, revealing the true nature of the North Korean soldiers and commanders, their uncertainty, their pride, and their ideological commitment.
President Truman dismisses General MacArthur as the Supreme Commander of United Nations forces in the Far East, as his plan to bomb Chinese Communist bases and enlist Nationalist Chinese forces in combat would have sabotaged the goal of world peace.
United Nations’ planes bomb power plants along the Yalu River, which while within North Korean borders, also supply power to China and Soviet-occupied Manchuria, raising the threat of direct communist military intervention.
(listed in alphabetical order)
The books below provide insights to understanding how the Korean War began, why USSR, China and USA intervened and how a peace agreement was finally achieved.
Cummings traces the roots of the Korean War which date back to 1931 and critiques the policies and military strategies of all the parties (North and South Korea and the US) involved of the atrocities committed during the lengthy three-year battle.
This historical dictionary tracks events which happened before, during and after the Korean War, covering details on significant persons, places, battles, military units and the political, economic and social contextual backgrounds.
- Hastings, M. (2010). The Korean War . London: Pan Books.
Call no.: R 951.9042 HAS
Compiled from interviews with Korean war veterans (Americans, Canadians, British, Koreans, Chinese) and archival research, Hastings focuses on the human and military aspects of the Korean War and documents also the experiences of the prisoners of war. Also included are photographs of battle scenes and key participants in the crisis.
The author explores the origins, development and global implications of the Korean War. The book also examines the military, social, cultural, and political aspects of the war.
The authors discuss the Sino-Soviet alliance between 1949 and 1973, that was impacted by the Korean War as well as by differing nationalist interests and communist leadership styles in China and the USSR.
(listed in alphabetical order)
- Campbell, J. R. (2014). The wrong war: The Soviets and the Korean war, 1945-1953. International Social Science Review (Online), 88(3), 1-29. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from ProQuest Central.
Campbell discusses both American and Soviet involvement in the Korean War and explains how, in many ways, entering the war set them both backwards. The article looks at how the United States committed its military to Korea without fully comprehending how tied up they would be, distracting it from its defense of Western Europe from a Soviet invasion. At the same time, the Soviet Union’s role in the war made it a lot of enemies, with the West seeing it as the puppet master of the Korean communist forces, while their own Chinese and Korean allies resented their inadequate support.
- Hammal, R. (2010). Destined to fail? How the division of Korea led to the Korean war. History Review, (67), 28-31. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from ProQuest Central.
Hammal examines how Korea was divided into two and the internal and external factors that led to the outbreak of the Korean war.
(listed in alphabetical order)
This government website contains a variety documents related to the Korean War, including the 1953 Armistice Agreement which effected a prolonged ceasefire between North and South Korea, as well as official records of Korean War casualties, military honour recipients, and analyses of the war.
Contains declassified scanned primary documents, photographs and links that chart the chronological timeline of the Korean war from 1945 – 1953.
Presents 13 teacher lesson plans for different grade levels on various aspects of the Korean War, such as the US involvement in the war, Korean War propaganda, the dismissal of General MacArthur and the execution of the US Presidency powers during the war.
The website offers a quick overview of how the Korean War started, China’s intervention in the war and the casualties sustained on both sides.
- Korean War Project. (2014). Korean War Project. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from Korean War Project website: http://www.koreanwar.org/
This website offers a wealth of information on the Korean War to veterans, families, researchers, and students of military history. Links are provided to memorials, KIA-MIA (Killed-in-action; Missing-in-action) databases, research materials on the weapons used and information on the military forces involved in the war.
This website traces the history of how General MacArthur, once the Commander-in-Chief of the Far East in World War II, was relieved of his command of the UN forces during the Korean War due to his “insubordination” against the Truman presidency.
- National Security Archive, The George Washington University. (2016). The National Security Archive. Retrieved March 21, 2017, from National Security Archive, The George Washington University website: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/
Contains an extensive digital archive of declassified US documents pertaining to the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Korean War as well as on issues related to the US national security, foreign policy, diplomatic and military history and intelligence policy.
This website gives an overview of the involvement of the US naval forces in the Korean War, including some naval photographs of the military in action.
Presents an extensive collection of historical documents, conference papers, publications and research findings on the Cold War in its Digital Archive, on topics such as China’s involvement in the Cold War and the impact of the war on countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the American continent.
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(Updated by) Nathaniel Chew
The information in this resource guide is valid as at Mar 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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