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Critical Essay on the Korean War

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Conflicts can be classified into two large groups, international and non-international armed conflicts. The UNHCR defines armed conflict as a violent confrontation between two human groups of massive size that will generally result in deaths and material destruction. International law is responsible for ensuring the safety of civilians during conflicts, seeking to limit the suffering of people and regulate combat methods such as nuclear or chemical wars. “on which rest the norms of international law for the protection of victims during armed conflicts” [footnoteRef:1]Geneva convention, 1864, was the starting point of international humanitarian law.[footnoteRef:2] [1: The Geneva Convention was signed in 1864, it was initially signed by 12 countries and is considered the starting point of International Humanitarian Law (IHL)] [2: What is an armed conflict according to International Humanitarian Law? UNHCR, 2018.]

As we named it previously, conflicts can be international or not. An international conflict is one in which two or more states are involved, even if the states do not recognize the government of another of the parties involved or if they “deny the existence of a state of war”. Modern wars are often asymmetric in character, with government armies facing insurgencies of various kinds without state status. With the above, we can establish that the Korean War is considered an international conflict.

Pre-conflict situation

The panorama left by the Second World War shows a 'free world' that was on the defensive against the endless Soviet strategies for world territorial conquest. The world was polarized by the constant violation and breach of treaties like Potsman, Yalta, and Cairo. Events such as the blockade of Berlin by Stalin after the approval of the economic front of Western Europe through the Marshall Plan brought about the emergence of NATO and the Rio de Janeiro Treaty. The Cold War was led by the United States and the Soviets, it was a very important event for the development of the war on the Korean peninsula. In 1949 North Korea led a cooperation initiative that requested the UN to withdraw the American and Soviet troops as a manifest demonstration of goodwill on the part of the parties to solve the conflict and for the reorganization of the defense of the Atlantic countries. It was possible to immobilize the North American ground forces in Korea, the reason why they were withdrawn from the area.

Korean war

The Claw of Korea begins with the telephone call of June 25, 1950, to Douglas MacArthur, commander of the North American forces of the Pacific who was at the North American embassy in Tokyo, the statement expressed in the said call was the following: 'Sir: we have just Receive news from Seoul. At 4:00 am strong North Korean contingents have crossed the 38th parallel”

South Korea, below the 38th parallel, had four divisions, made up of men faithful to their homeland, without training, only with light weapons, without aviation or warships, very few tanks, and other means of combat. On the other hand, the North Korean army was trained by the Soviets and had modern weapons for the time. The Soviets managed to camouflage their intentions. Along the 38th parallel, the North Koreans deployed several units with a few battle tanks, a force similar to that of South Korea, but with the difference that in the back line, they had concentrated powerful units with heavy weapons, including the most recent models. of Soviet battle tanks. First, the light troops crossed the dividing line and deployed to the right and left. Then, through the center, the majority of the forces advanced with heavy weapons.

After some early back-and-forth across the 38th[footnoteRef:5] parallel, the fighting stalled, and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives in what many in the U.S. refer to as “The Forgotten War” for the lack of attention it received compared to more well-known conflicts like World War I and II and the Vietnam War.[footnoteRef:6] [5: 38th parallel was the provisional demarcation agreed in 1945 by Washington and Moscow to separate the troops from both countries that were fighting the Japanese and avoid incidents. Thereafter, the Soviets fortified the border and collaborated in establishing a communist regime in their area; while the US promoted a parliamentary system in the South and instructed its army.] [6: Korean War.]

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“The withdrawal of the Han River. I boarded a jeep and under continuous air strikes headed towards the Han River to the north, encountering a defeated army in my path. There we ran into South Korean rear guard forces trying to defend bridges. The panorama was shocking. On the other side of the Han, which also runs through Seoul, the capital, we saw that it, already occupied by the enemy, was a steaming sea of ​​flames. Next to the bridges, the enemy's grenades rained down. Retreating soldiers were seen everywhere, the red crosses of the ambulances stood out, full of wounded men. Projectiles hissed in the air, announcing death, and desolation had taken over the battlefield. As if this were not enough, a real wave of refugees clogged the roads. Without uttering the slightest complaint, they marched south, carrying their few belongings on their shoulders and holding hands with the children, their eyes wide with fear; They were the representatives of a proud and tough people, used for centuries to live close to disaster.”[footnoteRef:7] [7: MacArthur's Memoirs]

Important details of the Korean War

South Korea was supported by the US military and North Korea was supported by the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.

The Korean War was characterized by violence and chaos, which made it one of the bloodiest in history, with more than 3 million deaths and a strong social division due to political ideologies which continue to this day. The point that most stressed the war was the territorial ambition and the strong political ideology of the superpowers that supported the sides.

The Korean War did not have a winner, since an agreement between the two sides managed to end the 3-year conflict. Faced with the imminent threat of the use of nuclear weapons by the United States and the Republic of China, the North Korean army surrendered. After several negotiations for territorial interests, an armistice was signed in July 1953, indicating the end of the armed conflicts. In this way, it was agreed between both parties to avoid military conflicts, and a 4-kilometer-wide border was drawn between them.

Current situation

The 1953 armistice also involves the creation of the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, in the DMZ, a space of dialogue mediated by the UN for Korean reunification. In this area, various approaches have been made and various political agreements have been agreed during all this time. However, states have not found a solution to the conflict for decades, years of tension and spikes of violence between the two. Currently, politicians seem to be open to new changes, and 2018 was marked as a year of inflection against North Korean denuclearization policies, which will give way to new advances.

Moon Jae-in, the current South Korean president, and Kim Jong-un, the current North Korean leader, met in April 2018 and crossed the border after so many years in search of a path of dialogue. At that time, they discussed inter-Korean policies and a prosperous future for both countries. Also, in 2018 and February 2019, Kim Jong-un and the President of the United States, Donald Trump, met to talk about the denuclearization of the country.[footnoteRef:8] [8: A new vision for Korean peace. Daniel Martin-Villamuelas. 2019]


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