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Korea

At the end of World War II, American forces moved into the southern half of the Korean peninsula, while Russian forces, which had been preparing for an invasion of Japan, occupied the northern half. Later, USA and USSR reached an agreement whereby Korea was divided at the ?38th Parallel?

india Updated: Sep 08, 2002 22:01 IST
PTI

At the end of World War II, American forces moved into the southern half of the Korean peninsula, while Russian forces, which had been preparing for an invasion of Japan, occupied the northern half.

Later, USA and USSR reached an agreement whereby Korea was divided at the ‘38th Parallel’ pending a reunification that was to follow popular elections in Korea. However, the USA and the USSR were soon locked in a Cold War, and reunification efforts were stymied.

Cold War compulsions soon led the US to form an interim government in the South and the USSR to set up a Communist government in the North. They were later to become the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Not helping matters was the great disunity among the Koreans.

In January 1950, the US declared Korea as unimportant to US strategic goals in Asia, effectively placing Korea outside of the US defense shield. With the green light from Washington, North Korea, with approval from Stalinist Russia, prepared for a quick invasion.

The Korean War began in June of 1950, when North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th parallel, attempting to quickly unite the country by force. Unprepared, undermanned, and overwhelmed, ROK forces retreated wildly, as the US rushed what troops it had from Japan. Such efforts were mostly futile. North Korean forces outnumbered the US and the ROK forces by a 2:1 ratio.

The South Korean army was pushed back into a small defensive perimeter around the port city of Pusan, located at the Southern tip of the peninsula. During the hostilities, the UN Security Council had convened to take up the matter of possible intervention.

It was here that the Soviet Union made one of the most unusual diplomatic moves, boycotting the Security Council meeting in protest against the Nationalist China having a seat instead of Communist Mainland China.

With the USSR abstaining, the resolution allowing UN forces to conduct a "policing" action was passed, restoring the peninsula back to pre-war status.

After a series of pitched battles, the ROK and the UN forces signed a joint defense treaty, establishing US bases within South Korea as well as the stationing of upwards of 40,000 US troops, further ensuring that a second North Korean invasion would not follow.

With peace, attention turned towards the rebuilding of the country and the development of the economy. The cease-fire stopped the hostilities but nothing substantial was signed afterwards. So, technically, both countries are still at war.

First Published: Sep 08, 2002 22:01 IST