(Note: Last week I was unable to post an article due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
The recent crisis with North Korea has led me to research and reflect on the outcome of the Korean War of the early 1950’s. More specifically, could this international tension have been averted 67 years ago?
First I need to give a short recap of the war based on my research: On June 25, 1950, 75,000 soldiers from the pro-Soviet Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north crossed the 38th parallel, which is the boundary between North and South Korea. The invasion surprised the United States, for South Korea was and still is a pro-Western nation. This invasion is considered the first military action of the Cold War. President Harry S. Truman sent American troops under UN auspices to the Korean peninsula in August 1950. He appointed World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur to lead the forces to protect South Korea. General MacArthur and his troops pushed the North Koreans back and landed at the Battle of Inchon toward the Yalu River, which is the border between North Korea and China. Alarmed, the communist Chinese sent troops to warn the Americans to stay away from the Yalu River unless they were prepared to go to war.
MacArthur’s plan was to go ahead and attack China’s supply bases near the Yalu River, but Truman feared this would provoke World War III. When MacArthur’s plan was leaked to the press, Truman fired him. From then on, the fighting continued for two more years as both sides attempted to reach an armistice. When it was finally achieved and signed on July 27, 1953, both sides agreed to draw a new boundary at the 38th parallel. As a result of the war, 5 million people died: more than half were civilians. 40,000 American troops lost their lives and 100,000 were injured.
Although the fighting ended, both North and South Korea are still in a state of war. No peace treaty was ever signed and each side considers themselves the only legitimate government of Korea. In the years following the Korean War, North Korea has committed numerous human rights violations, including using its resources to develop nuclear weapons rather than feeding its people. Free speech is nonexistent in North Korea and there are occasional skirmishes with South Korea along the border. The imprisonment and tragic death of Otto Warmbier, a US student who visited the country, only highlights the nefarious intentions of North Korea. The testy threats between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un has only increased the already tense atmosphere. It appears something has to give.
Did Truman make the right decision at the time? General MacArthur’s plan was no doubt reckless and dangerous, and Truman, of course, wanted to prevent World War III. To think there may have been a possibility that this conflict could have been resolved somehow 67 years ago may be wishful thinking on my part. If only there was some way to undo all the damage over the years.
Information for this blog comes from history.com and Wikipedia.
Idelle Kursman is the author of the thriller True Mercy. Read more of her posts on www.luckcanchange.com.