At the end of the Second World War, Japan’s empire was defeated and the Soviet Union occupied North Korea.¹ The Korean peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel, where the Soviet Union occupied the north and the United States occupied the south. The Soviet Union established a communist government in the North, and at the same time, the United States set up a capitalist government in the South.¹
Battles between the North and South raged even before the war officially began, with almost 10,000 soldiers killed before the official start date.² Tensions brewed and, in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea.
The United Nations was called in to help restore peace and set up a 16-nation force to aid South Korea that was led by the United States.¹ The United States was frightened by the push of the communists in the North into the democratic South. Many government officials believed that the push was the first step in a communist campaign to take over the world.²
The UN forces pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea but were continually resisted by the North Koreans and their Chinese allies. It was especially difficult for American troops to fight because it was the hottest and driest summer on record; Americans were forced to drink water from rice paddies that had been fertilized by human waste.²
In July of 1951, ceasefire negotiations began, but there would be two more years of fighting before the signing of the Armistice in 1953.¹ The ceasefire left the Korean peninsula very unstable, but the UN came out proving its first peacekeeping mission a success.¹ The ceasefire allowed prisoners of war to stay where they liked (either in North Korea or South Korea).²
In total, nearly 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives in the Korean War.² Almost 40,000 Americans were killed and more than 100,000 were wounded.² The legacy of the two Koreas is still very much prominent today, as the two Koreas are always in a high-tension status. The 2 mile-wide demilitarized zone still exists today and serves as the extremely heavily guarded boarder between the two countries.²