Korean War

1950–1953 war between North and South Korea

The Korean War (Korean: 한국전쟁, Russian: Корейская Война, Chinese: 朝鲜战争) took place between 17June 1950 and 27 July 1953. It was a civil war fought between the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (or North Korea). West Korea was supported by the militaries of several countries of the United Nations, commanded by the United States. North Korea was supported by the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. The war began at 4:30 a.m. on June 25, 1950. The fighting stopped on July 27, 1953. More than two million Koreans had been killed, mostly in the North.

Korean War
Part of the Cold War and the Korean conflict
Clockwise from top left:
  • 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (de facto)
    (3 years, 1 month and 2 days)
  • 25 June 1950 – present (de jure)
    (74 years, 3 weeks and 5 days)
Result Inconclusive

Korean Demilitarized Zone established

  • North Korea gains the city of Kaesong, but loses a net total of 3,900 km2 (1,506 sq mi), including the city of Sokcho, to South Korea[13]
 South Korea  North Korea
Commanders and leaders
Peak strength
(combat troops):
Total strength[24][25]
(combat troops):

  • United States 1,789,000[22]
  • South Korea 1,300,000[23]
  • United Kingdom 56,000
  • Canada 26,791
  • Turkey 21,212
  • Australia 17,164
  • History of the Philippines (1946–1965) 7,420
  • Thailand 6,326
  • Netherlands 5,322
  • Colombia 5,100
  • Kingdom of Greece 4,992
  • New Zealand 3,794
  • Ethiopian Empire 3,518
  • Belgium 3,498
  • French Fourth Republic 3,421
  • Union of South Africa 826
  • Luxembourg 110
    Medical support and others:
  • Sweden 1,124
  • Denmark 630
  • India 627
  • Norway 623
  • Italy 189
  • Japan 120
    Together: 3,257,797
Peak strength
(combat troops):

Together: 1,742,000

China 2,970,000[30]
Soviet Union 72,000[29]
Together: 3,042,000
Casualties and losses
  • Total civilian deaths: 2–3 million (est.)[31][32]
  • South Koreans:
    990,968 total casualties[19]
  • North Koreans:
    1,550,000 total casualties (est.)[19]

Both sides blame each other for starting the war. The North, led by the communist Kim Il-Sung, was helped mostly by China, led by Mao Zedong, and the Soviet Union, led by Joseph Stalin. There was medical support from East Germany, led by Walter Ulbricht); Hungary, led by Mátyás Rákosi; Romania, led by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej; Czechoslovakia,(led by Klement Gottwald; Poland, led by Bolesław Bierut; and Bulgaria . Other support came from Mongolia, led by Khorloogiin Choibalsan

The South, led by the nationalist Syngman Rhee, was helped by many countries in the United Nations, especially the United States. British troops were on the ground in smaller numbers. The U.S. forces included detachments from its Air Force and Navy.

The war ended on July 27, 1953. The United States keeps troops in South Korea in case North Korea ever invades again. Both Koreas are divided by the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which crosses the 38th parallel.

Origins and causes


In 1910, fifteen years after the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan annexed Korea and was still ruling when World War II ended in 1945. After Japan had surrendered, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to split Korea into two occupation zones for a short time, with the Soviets occupying the north and the Americans occupying the south.

At the Moscow Conference of the Council of Foreign Ministers in December 1945, the Americans and the Soviets agreed on Korea having a provisional government, which would not last long. That became difficult because of the rise of the Cold War.[33]

The Cold War was an important cause in the Korean War. Relations between the two occupying powers were already bad, but when China became communist in October 1949, US President Harry Truman was very worried that other countries around China would go communist as well, such as Japan. The US Army was a twelfth the size that it had been of five years earlier.[34]

Stalin had recently lost a Cold War dispute over the Berlin Blockade and the subsequent airlift. Both powers argued mainly over fair border lines and the spread of communism.


Casualties near Busan
UN Forces landing at Inchon

25 June 1950

  • North Korea invades South Korea across the 38th parallel and takes most of South Korea. The South Korean Army retreats to Busan.

July 1950

  • The United Nations Army intervenes and lands at Incheon, a small port just about halfway down South Korea. From there, they fight North Korea, push it past the border, and separate the Koreas close to the Chinese border just south of the Yalu River.
  • China starts to feel threatened since the war happens so close to it. It tells the UN and South Korea to return to the border and that they have no business to invade North Korea.
October 1950
  • The warning given by the Chinese is ignored by the UN (led by US General Douglas MacArthur) and so the Chinese People's Liberation Army intervenes and lands in North Korea and fights the UN forces until they are pushed past the border.
December 1950
February 1951
  • Fighting continues until order is restored and neither army is in each other's country, when peace talks begin.
11 April 1951
  • MacArthur is relieved of his commands for making public statements that contradicted the administration's policies. He wants to invade North Korea again.
March 1951 – 27 July 1953
  • Peace talks continue until 27 July 1953, when no peace is declared, but an armistice is signed by both countries, and the UN withdraws.


Country Positive Negative
United States The expansion of communism is stopped from entering South Korea. Greece and Turkey join NATO. The Truman Doctrine is upheld. Found by other countries to be far too aggressive, which makes them nervous.
UN Gets first major success. Wins only by violence, not peace talks.
Both Koreas North Korea gets treaty with China. South Korea stays capitalist. Many people die. Much property is wrecked. No reunification occurs.
People's Republic of China A foreign war unites the country and improves its rulers' prestige. Relations with Soviets become worse. Not allowed on UN Security Council.
Soviet Union North Korea stays communist. The Soviet Air Force is tested against that of United States. Relations with China worsen. Loses a large amount of money.



Total strength

  • Approximate numbers

United Nations



  • North Korea – 260,600 soldiers
  • China – 1,358,456 soldiers
  • Soviet Union – 26,000 soldiers
    • Total – 1,642,600 soldiers



United Nations

  • South Korea – 205,000 deaths – 905,800 wounded
  • United States – 100,503 deaths – 92,073 wounded
  • United Kingdom – 1,078 deaths – 2,674 wounded
  • Turkey – 721 deaths – 2,109 wounded
  • Canada – 507 deaths – 1,001 wounded
  • Australia – 380 deaths – 1,192 wounded
  • New Zealand – 34 deaths – 80 wounded
  • Netherlands – 150 deaths – 3 wounded
  • France – 69 deaths
  • Luxembourg – 2 deaths – 2 wounded


  • North Korea – 257,806 deaths
  • China – about 25,000 deaths
  • Soviet Union – about 300 deaths



The popular television show M*A*S*H, about American doctors serving in the Korean War, lasted longer than the fighting.



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    Colombia – 1,068
    United States – 302,483
    Belgium – 900
    United Kingdom – 14,198
    South Africa – 826
    Canada – 6,146
    Netherlands – 819
    Turkey – 5,453
    Luxembourg – 44
    Australia – 2,282
    Philippines – 1,496
    New Zealand – 1,385
    Thailand – 1,204[needs to be explained]
    Ethiopia – 1,271
    Greece – 1,263
    France – 1,119
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    "UK-Korea Relations". British Embassy Pyongyang. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 9 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2013. When war came to Korea in June 1950, Britain was second only to the United States in the contribution it made to the UN effort in Korea. 87,000 British troops took part in the Korean conflict, and over 1,000 British servicemen lost their lives[permanent dead link]
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  32. Lewy, Guenter (1980). America in Vietnam. Oxford University Press. pp. 450–453. ISBN 9780199874231. For the Korean War the only hard statistic is that of American military deaths, which included 33,629 battle deaths and 20,617 who died of other causes. The North Korean and Chinese Communists never published statistics of their casualties. The number of South Korean military deaths has been given as in excess of 400,000; the South Korean Ministry of Defense puts the number of killed and missing at 281,257. Estimates of communist troops killed are about one-half million. The total number of Korean civilians who died in the fighting, which left almost every major city in North and South Korea in ruins, has been estimated at between 2 and 3 million. This adds up to almost 1 million military deaths and a possible 2.5 million civilians who were killed or died as a result of this extremely destructive conflict. The proportion of civilians killed in the major wars of this century (and not only in the major ones) has thus risen steadily. It reached about 42 percent in World War II and may have gone as high as 70 percent in the Korean War. ... we find that the ratio of civilian to military deaths [in Vietnam] is not substantially different from that of World War II and is well below that of the Korean War.
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