The Catalyst to the Korean War
It is often thought of, as the “Forgotten War”, the Korean War took place between the years 1950-1953. Korea was a frequently fought-over peninsula in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Korea was dominated by China as a tributary nation for centuries, fought over by China and Japan in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and fought over again by Japan and Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), both wanting it for colonization. It was annexed by Japan in 1910 and was a front in the Cold War between the USSR and USA, with both occupying a different part of the Korean peninsula. While there are events that can be considered catalysts for the Korean War, the Japanese occupation of Korea between 1905-1945, the USSR and USA’s occupation of Korea, the start of the Cold War, and the internal conflict of the Koreans before and after the creation of the division of the 38th parallel, I believe Japan’s occupation and colonization, the Korean peoples want of one unified independent Korea, and the fact that Korea was a strategic advantage for both the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, are the main catalysts to the situation which led to the internal conflict, the struggle for independence from foreign powers, and in essence, to the war itself. The occupation of Korea by Japan led to discontent of the Korean people and their want of a unified and self-governed nation, also the occupation of Korea by the USSR in the North and USA in the South at the end of the Second World War and at the beginning of the Cold War, caused the division of Korea at the 38th parallel that still is present to this day. Japan’s dominance of China during the Sino-Japanese War left the struggle to control Korea between Japan and Russia. The tensions between Japan and Russia came to a head in 1904 in the Russo-Japanese War: they both wanted Korea for colonization. The Russo-Japanese War, ended in 1905 with Japanese winning; it gave Japan the control of most of Asia. Japan’s dominance over both China and Russia gave it recognition from England and the United States and in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War, England and the United States both acknowledged Japan’s right to take measures of guidance, control and protection of Korea. Japan removed Korea’s power to have diplomatic relations with other nations, forced its emperor to give up the throne, dissolved its military units and finally annexed Korea in 1910. During Japan’s occupation between 1910 and 1945, Koreans had a hard time keeping their cultural identity. The Japanese banned the teaching of the Korean language in schools, forced Koreans to take on Japanese names and many of Korea’s girls and women were sent to serve as comfort women, or prostitutes, for Japanese soldiers.1 The Japanese forced Korean farmers off their land and gave the farms to other Japanese, buildings in Korea were taken over for military purposes, the Korean language newspaper was closed, Korean businesses were given to Japanese officials or were forced to send products such as rice to Japan, causing severe hardships and food shortages for Koreans.2 During World War II, Japan employed Koreans in its military efforts. Koreans were drafted into the Japanese army and they also conscripted 2.6 million forced labourers to work in Japan and elsewhere under dangerous, slave-like conditions.3 After the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, Koreans put up resistance to Japanese colonial rule. The Korean people rose up against the Japanese and organized guerrilla forces known as the “Righteous Army”.4 There were many battles fought by the guerrilla armies between 1907 and 1909 but resistance gradually grew weaker, however, because of a strong Japanese army, and made it almost impossible for the Righteous Armies to continue their fight. The resistance movement moved north into Manchuria to continue their struggle from outside Korea’s borders and became known as the Korean...
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