The Outbreak of the Korean War

Topics: Korean War, South Korea, World War II Pages: 6 (2535 words) Published: April 21, 2014
‘The Outbreak of the Korean War was more due to external then internal factors’ Discuss When war broke out between North and South Korea on the 25th of June 1950 there were a large number of factors that contributed to the outbreak of conflict. This is partly due to the vastly complicated political situation in Korea itself, but also because the Korean War occurred during a period of transition for the entire world, from the ashes of World War Two to the flickering embers of the Cold War. In this context, a number of historians would argue that the main causes of the Korean War were not domestic but international, suggesting that the conflict in Korea was part of the worldwide ‘cold war’ fought between the United States and the USSR. However, some historians differ, suggesting that the foundations of the War in Korea could be found deep in the country’s divided history, proposing that the conflict in Korea was not a veiled conflict between the two countries at the heart of the Cold War using the Korean War as a means to fight without a ‘hot war’ and the nuclear destruction that would come with it, but a conflict that was inevitable for Korea because of the deep rooted divides in its society. A number of factors that arguably led to the Korean War revolve around the way the United States and the USSR dealt with Korea after freeing them from the defeated Japanese and the end of the Second World War. The 38th parallel was implemented as the new border between the Soviet controlled North Korea and the American controlled south; it could be argued that the implementation of the 38th parallel itself is symbolic of the way Korea was dealt with in the post war years due to the haphazard nature of its implementation and the ill-fitting nature of the border itself1. Another failure of the Soviets and Americans in their dealing with post-war Korea that also involves the creation of the 38th parallel border was the fact that aside from the practical downfalls of the new border it also created a stronger psychological division in an already ideologically divided country. The post-war failures of the newly established super-powers and the United Nation in Korea were compounded by the failure of these entities to re-unify the Korean state before the US and the USSR withdrew in 1948 and 1949 and remove what was only supposed to be a temporary border, which arguably left Korea in a situation where war between the North and South was inevitable. These factors suggest that it was external factors that cause the outbreak of war in Korea in 1950, even when you only consider the international communities downfalls in dealing with the situation in Korea, aside from other factors such as those motivated by the cold war. Others would argue that the psychological divides within Korea’s society were a more important factor in the lead-up to war then the physical division created by the 38th parallel. This is because Korea had a history of conflict between conservative and reformist factions long before international intervention in the post-world war two era. Certainly, this is evident when studying the two leaders of divided Korea. Kim Il-Sung was placed in control of the newly formed communist government in the soviet controlled north; Kim along with other communists fought the Japanese in Korea and Manchuria2 and saw conservatives like Syngman Rhee as collaborators to Japanese rule, it is also known that Kim was ruthless in his purging of the Chinese faction in the Korean communist party led by Pak Il-Yu3. The leader of South Korea after American occupation was anti-communist ‘strongman’ Syngman Rhee; Rhee was a right wing conservative who soon after attaining political office began enacting laws that tackled political dissent. In the years before the Korean War a large number of Rhee’s alleged leftist opponents were arrested and often killed. Rhee is also known to have committed a number of massacres during his time in office, most notably;...


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