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Video:Overview of Korean War

with David Wilson

The Korean War was a three-year conflict in the midst of the Cold War which attempted to stop the spread of Communism. Learn about the conflict between North and South Korea in this history video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:Overview of Korean War

Hi, I'm Ben Arrona, here for About.com. I'm an historian with a Master's Degree in American History and today we'll be discussing the Korean War.

The Cold War and the Korean War

While much of the Cold War can be characterized by the tension caused from a fear of military action, there were some very significant and well-known hot points during this period; the Korean War was one of these.

Tensions Build Between North and South Korea

At the time, North Korea was known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which was backed by the Soviet Union and China. On the other hand, the South Korean government was supported by the United States and other democratic countries across the globe. As tensions built between North and South Korea, the United States, as well as China and the Soviet Union, viewed this potential conflict as a flashpoint for the battle between Communism and Democracy.

The US and the United Nations Gets Involved in the Korean Conflict

The two countries, North and South Korea, were divided by a border at the 38th parallel. On July 25, 1950, North Korean military forces numbering around 75,000 soldiers crossed into South Korea in what amounted to be the first military action of the Cold War.

The newly formed United Nations condemned the act of aggression. Two days after the invasion, President Truman gave authorization for American troops in Korea, and by July the United States entered the conflict on behalf of South Korea. Through the United Nations, 15 other nations ultimately contributed military forces and were placed under the command of U.S. General Douglas MacArthur.

The War in Korea

The North Koreans encountered little resistance up until the end of July. The North Korean army forced its way through the South Korean peninsula, capturing the capital city of Seoul and making its way all the way down to the Southeast tip of the country at the Pusan region.

On the 15th of September, MacArthur led a counter-offensive that rapidly pushed the North Korean army out of Seoul and back across the 38th parallel. MacArthur continued the push into the North and on October 19th the North Korean capital of Pyongyang was captured.

By the end of November, the United States forces had driven the North Korean army all the way up to the Yalu River, approaching North Korea's border with China. As the U.S. forces reached the Yalu River, tensions from the United States approaching so closely to the Chinese border led Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader, to send his troops into North Korea for a counter-offensive that began on November 25th.

By January of 1951 this led to the North recapturing Pyongyang and pushing the U.S.-led forces South, back down across the 38th Parallel. After months of intense fighting, once again, the 38th Parallel was established as the dividing line between the two countries. General MacArthur, a World War II hero, lobbied heavily for pushing the war into China. However, President Truman decided to remove General MacArthur in April of 1951, inserting in his place General Matthew B. Ridgway.

The End of the Korean War and its Consequences

After a long and difficult negotiation, ultimately an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953 effectively ending the Korean War and establishing the 38th parallel as a two-and-a-half mile wide demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. The end of the conflict came at a heavy cost to both the United States, China and Korea. The United States suffered 36,000 casualties, along with over 100,000 wounded. War estimates place losses for the Koreans and the Chinese to have been at least 1.2 million, with an additional 1.6 million civilian deaths.

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