The end of the second World War saw a Korea,
newly liberated from Japanese occupation, be split midway along the 38th
parallel while the United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
(USSR) decided what to do with the state. Upheaval grew as political parties
battled to form Korea’s new government. This unrest sparked a war in 1950 for
the governing of the nation between a communist USSR backed north, under leader
Kim Il-Sung and a US backed authoritarian south, under Syngman Rhee. After
three years, in 1953 an armistice was signed by all parties involved,
officially ending the conflict in Korea. The war ended with an immense loss of
life, according to the European Journal of Population, the total number of
military deaths was just over 1.2 million (Lacina & Gleditsch, 2005).
Ultimately, neither North or South Korea would be able to annex the other and
eventually this led to the formation of two separate states.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
(DPRK) would take claim of the north half of the peninsula and the Republic of
Korea (ROK) would control the south. Tensions are still high between the two
states and power has shifted back and forth through out the years.

The war for Korea was started as tensions
arose within the nation, having been split in half civil conflict was on the
rise. The Soviets and US were in the heat of the Cold War and vying for global
influence. The US was under control of President Harry S. Truman, who had
recently created their domino theory and thus were mindful of any Soviet
expansion. With the very newly created UN and Truman’s heavy investment they
were looking to prevent any further spread of communism. Meanwhile the USSR was
bolstering support for their puppet leader Kim Il-Sung. The communist leader was
bent on the unification of Korea with the help of Soviet (and later Chinese) intervention.
After pressing for Soviet and Chinese support Kim Il-Sung’s troops invaded the
ROK on the 25 June, 1950 (Flaum, 2018). DPRK and Russian leaders hoped that the
US would provide minimal support to the ROK. They were wrong in this thinking
and the whole of the UN quickly intervened. Sixteen countries of the UN sent
troops to support South Korea in the conflict, with the US constituting a vast
majority. Humanitarian aid was sent by both the UN and the Red Cross. The
opening months of the conflict saw a near defeat of the south, until the US
backed offensive launched a counter attack. Once DPRK forces had been pushed
back north across the 38th parallel, South Korea continued to push
their attack, exploiting the disorientation of the north and their UN backing.
Facing poor opposition, UN troops reached the Chinese border. US troops so
close to Chinese and Russian lands unnerved these states and China sent a force
of nearly half a million to support the DPRK. Their attacks were successful and
the South was once again forced back the unofficial border at the 38th
parallel. The armies on both ‘dug in’ at this point and the conflict stagnated.
For the next two years it would turn into a war of attrition until the
armistice be signed, ending hostilities (Millett, 2017).

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The Korean War is could be argued as the
first ‘hot war’ in the bipolar international system of powers between the USSR
and the US. It was a conflict of realist intentions at multiple levels and from
multiple parties. It was really a war within a war, on one hand the Koreans
fought for the future of their people and to decide who would govern. The US,
USSR and China on the other hand, believed it to be part of a bigger conflict
of global influence and proof of doctrines. The USSR and China wanted to see
the spread of Communism for a larger base of political influence and access to
natural resources. The UN’s, and particularly US’ intentions, although similar
to their opponents where on the defence of the influence that they had already
procured in the region and feared that communism would not stop in Korea, but
instead spread into neighbouring Japan and other Asian states. Kim Il-Sung and
Syngman Rhee were both dictators and riled up protests and civil dismay, both
men shared a desire for a free and independent Korea.

Parmar states in his journal, Racial
and Imperial Thinking in International Theory and Politics: Truman, Attlee and
the Korean War, that
some scholars argue that the conflict at least for the West would lean towards
liberal internationalism. Many would argue that the western powers intervened
to ‘police’ the situation and meant to avoid conflict. Parmar argues that views
of the conflict are seen to rather spread influence by force than a peaceful
solution. Forceful influence was present on both sides of the conflict, and the
USSR’s motives were clearly realist as they began the conflict with the intent
of annexing the ROK. The West’s goals were unnecessarily complex, they argued
that they wanted to protect the Korean people from the perceived Soviet threat
in the north. Parmar, however stresses that their goals were symbolic and that
they needed to uphold the idea of security for their global allies and the
newly instated UN states. They also believed that if Korea fell into communism,
other states would be sure to follow (2016). Following the armistice, the border
stayed generally the same as it was three years prior. The change that had
occurred, was that two new states had arisen out of one nation. These new states
shared the same culture and people but were political and economic opposites. DPRK,
having the majority of the populace and resources in the country became a largely
self-dependant, isolationist dictatorship. ROK started with nearly nothing and
had to build up their economy, within 30 years they would grow from near-total dependence
on Western imports to becoming the 12th largest trading state in 1990. (Kim,

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