Maybe the First Of Many New Nuclear States - What's the History Behind the Riddle Of Korea?
Right, here we go. North Korea now has nuclear weapons. North Korea seems to have an insane leader, Kim Jong il who seems determined to starve his fellow country people and prepare for a confrontation with the surrounding (non-communist) countries, firing missiles over the top of Japan and testing it's own Nuclear weapons. South Korea has tens-of-thousands of foreign troops still based along the border, although economically stable, it's democracy has had some serious wobbles. If there was anywhere in the world where a nuclear conflict could start, it's here. How did we get to this situation?
Japan had occupied Korea since the early 1900's, and right through until the end of the Second World War. As previously agreed the USA and Soviet Union then occupied Korea, ousting the defeated Japanese forces, with a dividing line along the 38th Parallel, although there was no long term plan to split Korea in two, it was always planned to be a temporary situation.
Unfortunately due to the pressures of the newly started cold war, thoughts of creating a unified Korea were pushed to one side as both Russia and the USA installed Governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, a communist one in the north and an authoritarian right-wing govt in the south.
Both governments were committed to unify the country (under their own leadership) but it has to be said that the North had more commitment and more support from Russia and China., and invaded the south on June 25th 1950.
What followed was a to and fro situation. Firstly the South Korean (ROK) forces were forced to the south, lightly supported by US troops. After gaining support from the UN, American and other forces started to arrive in force, led by the enigmatic General MacArthur. He led an audacious counter-attack plan, which included an amphibious landing at Incheon, cutting the North Koreans supply routes and leading to their retreat North. Eventually the UN forces almost over-ran the entire country, confident in creating a Western-Friendly united Korea. They had underestimated the willingness and ability of the Communist Chinese to intervene.
In November 1950 the Chinese attacked with a force of around 270,000 soldiers, eventually forcing the UN forces back to below the 38th parallel once again. The war then became largely static, and it took until 1953 that fighting stopped, and that's where the border has been ever since.
South Korea went on to become a very successful economic force, if not a true democracy, whereas North Korea under its Stalinist Dictator has become more and more isolated, it's economy crashing, it's people starving, yet still with the will to develop Nuclear Weapons.
So what does the Korean conflict teach us? Firstly never underestimate the ability of countries to splinter & wage civil war upon itself, especially under the influence of outside forces. Remember that intelligence can be wrong, as in the case of the US failure to predict the Chinese intervention, and that deep rooted divisions can last decades, no matter how hard we try to sort things out.
The biggest lesson I think is how that the power games played by countries, like the US, China & Russia in Korea have led to the creation of unnatural, rogue states like North Korea. If Russia & The US had cooperated on a unified Korea after WWII maybe none of this would have happened. Maybe.
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