The problem in Korea

How is the Korean War relevant to US
containment policy ?
Emily Gubbay
Claire Rosset
The problem in Korea
 Korea was to be occupied north of the 38th parallel by
Soviet Russia and to the south by a United States military
 Korea was split : a communist north led by Kim IL Sung,
and a non-communist south led by Syngman Rhee.
 Neither dictator was content to remain on his side of the
border and the Republic of Korea was invaded by the
North Korean Peoples' Army on 25 June 1950.
Why did the US get involved ?
 As communism was growing, the US feared this was not simply
a border dispute but the first step in a communist campaign to
take over the world.
 Domino Theory and NSC68 recommended “containment” of
communist expansionism.
 Non intervention was not an option. “If we let Korea down, the
Soviets will keep right on going and swallow up one place after
another.”- President Harry Truman.
 The war was a symbol of the global struggle between east and
The War Specifics
 September 1950 : NKPA almost conquered South Korea.
USA got the United Nations to send troops to defend SK.
 October 1950: UN forces almost conquered North Korea.
 November 1950 : Chinese People's Volunteers attacked
and drove the Americans back. They recaptured North
Korea, and advanced into South Korea.
 1951-1953 : Border clashes
 1953 : America's new president Eisenhower offered peace
A Demilitarised Zone was established on the border
Was Containment a success ?
 The US was not ready in 1948 for another war, especially
with problems in Berlin and China.
 After having fought for 3 years, the US only gained little and
remained at the 38th parallel.
 They did not manage to eliminate the communist
 North Korea is now a totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship with
a cult of the personality around the Kim family and one of
the lowest-ranking human rights records of any country.
North Korea had the lowest Democracy Index of any nation.
The effects of the Korean War
on America
 The US could not accept the loss of what they
considered an easy war, and so blamed Truman.
 The loss of the war lead to two treaties in 1951 with
Japan and the Philippines, and a defense pact
 After this war, containment was not only economic
and political but also military.
 United States 1817-2008 Collins, Flagship History
Did you know ? Unlike WWII and Vietnam, the Korean War did
not get much media attention in the United States. The most
famous representation of the war in popular culture is the television
series “M*A*S*H” set in a field hospital in South Korea.