Who do North Koreans think started the Korean War?

North Koreans find it so difficult to question the tale of U.S. / South Korean invasion, defector says
January 8th, 2014

Every week we ask a North Korean your questions, giving you the chance to learn more about the country we know so little about.

This week Robbie P. asks:

Who do North Koreans think really started the Korean War? Surely North Korean tourist guides who show visitors around the country must know the truth by now?

For more than 20 years, I had been educated that it was a joint army of South Korea and the United States who brought war to the Korean Peninsula. I must therefore confess that I was one of the many people who found it extremely hard to believe that North Korea started the Korean War. Among the many things that I relearned when I got to South Korea, the truth about Korean War was the biggest surprise.

In South Korea, there’s an education institute for people from North Korea and they run a social adjustment-training program to help new arrivals integrate into South Korean society. It was through this program that I first heard about the North Korean invasion. To be honest, even then I did not really believe what I was told about the Korean War. I nodded pretending to understand, but in my mind I secretly thought that it was a lie designed to reform North Korean defectors who had been indoctrinated by the North Korean government for a long time. I could not dispel the doubt that the “theory” of North Korean invasion was another pure fabrication to brainwash North Korean defectors. However, after I graduated the institute and spent time developing my own perspective on South Korean society, I realized that South Korea is an open society with several routes of information where made-up stories do not really work. Only then did I accept the surprising truths of the Korean War.

I bring this up to highlight how it is almost impossible for North Koreans to believe that North Korea started the war. As you know, in North Korea, a society closed off from the outside world, people are blinded about what is happening inside and out of their country. The North Korean government allows its people only a limited amount of information, and it is really hard to get any information other than what the government wants the people to know.

“I never heard anything about the Korean War that contradicted what I had learned in school”

Other than the information officially distributed by the government, there are not many ways of becoming informed about what is really going on. A few people share some of the information they obtain with their family or closest friends and sometimes this information spreads out as rumors or gossip. The rumors may include things like guesses about Ri Sol Ju’s (Kim Jong Un’s wife) real age, how many children she has had and the story of how she and Kim Jong Un met. But there are no rumors contradicting the official line on the Korean war – nothing to make people think otherwise about this ‘truth’. And so I never heard anything about the Korean War that contradicted what I had learned in school.

Even the veterans who took part in the Korean War talk about the bloodshed from the war that America started. It is only natural that their children share the same belief as their parents about the war. Apparently, all the soldiers who fought in the war had no doubt in their minds that the war was started because the joint army of the U.S. and South Korea attacked North Korea. It looks like Kim Il Sung did a very good job in sealing the truth of the Korean War in complete darkness.

My guess is that the North Korean people then were way too naïve to question what they were told to believe. Also, it might have been hard for them to think that North Korea would want to go to war right after they were liberated from Japan. It was time for the people to gather together and rebuild the nation. It simply did not make any sense for North Korea to want to start a war at that point. Kim Il Sung already knew what people would think of a war, so he had to hide North Korea’s preemptive strike because, otherwise, the war itself might have not been possible.

“I believe the tough nature of fighting dogs also includes a strong masculine instinct to protect his territory from his enemies”

I’ve heard that South Korean people use the idiomatic expression “fighting dogs in the mud” to describe the grit and competitive nature of North Korean people. I agree with the metaphor: I believe the tough nature of fighting dogs also includes a strong masculine instinct to protect his territory from his enemies. So it looks like Kim Il Sung pushed the right button for these people, who were naturally protective of their homeland and ready to fight for it.

Kim Il Sung convinced people that, this time – instead of Japan – it was greedy America who was about to take away their precious homeland. He stirred up the people, telling them that North Korea could not go back to the disgrace of colonial era, and we, North Koreans should not allow any external enemy inside our territory again. And to defeat the enemy from our homeland, every single North Korean should fight in the war, he said.

As you know, at that time, Korea had just been liberated from the colonization of Japan and people were about to enjoy their precious freedom to prosper on their own land without any outside influence. For them, the mere possibility of another invasion was enough to ignite the fighting spirit to repel the enemy and protect their homeland. It was understood that once they thought there was an enemy invading, they would want to fight. A war was a reckless challenge for Kim Il Sung, who did not stand any chance of winning unless he fooled all the people in North Korea that they really had to fight. The truth that it was actually North Korea who started the war had to be locked in darkness forever. I believe that even when the war broke out, only few people in North Korea except Kim Il Sung knew about who really started the war.

“The tour guides you mentioned have been taught all their lives that the South and the U.S. started the war”

The tour guides you mentioned have been taught all their lives that the South and the U.S. started the war. Even if you try to tell the truth about the war to North Korean people, no one would be likely to believe it. It was unbelievable even for someone like me, who voluntarily left North Korea. If you tried to convince them of the truth, I don’t think they would argue with you face-to-face, but they might not be able to accept it either. It will for sure take some time for them to break what they have accepted as truth for so long.

Based on my own experience, I assume it would be extremely difficult for them to understand why North Korea would want war, if they do not really understand Kim Il Sung and his family’s unyielding desire for power. To accept what happened in the Korean War, the North Korean people should first grasp the truth about the Kim family –  their desire for power and violent nature. Without this, it would be impossible to really know what brought the tragedy of fratricidal war into Korean peninsula.

The made-up stories in North Korea can be corrected only when the country is finally liberated from its own prison of darkness and confronts the free world beyond its border. It will for sure take a long time. And even time would not fix everything.

Unlike darkness that is dissolved when the day dawns, this darkness will not go away as time goes by. I believe that first the North Korean people have to make an effort to question what they are told to believe and educate themselves. Moreover, I really think there should be devoted support and help from neighboring countries to help people in North Korea confront the truth of Korean War and, even further, the truth of the society they are living in.

Only then can the magic of these 60-year-old lies be broken.

Got A Question?

Email it to [email protected] with your name and city. We’ll be publishing the best ones.

Editing and translation by Ashley Cho

Artwork by Catherine Salkeld

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About the Author

Mina Yoon

Mina is an "Ask a North Korean" contributor. She is in her early 20s and left the north-east of North Korea in 2010. She can be reached at [email protected]

Join the discussion

  • 정대화

    South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee, father of the current president Park Geun Hye(whoes election is rigged), shot and killed 8 innocent people as NK spies in cold blood, only 18 hours after a shoddy court martial. Some compare Jang Song Taek’s shooting 3 days after an NK court decison. A big deal!
    But the 8 men were recently proven innocent after some 30 years.
    Few Americans know about it or talk about it!
    This is the truth. Ask any Korean, he will tell you this is a fact.
    So, don’t howl only N. Koreans are cold blooded!

    • Matt Harmon

      I thought we were talking about events in the pseudoKorea in December of 2013 and not events in the Republic of Korea more than 40 years ago?

      I know of no other country in the world that makes folding currency with a dead former leader’s image on it a crime with a punishment that will get the folder’s entire family sent to a labor camp. Or where the use of a used newspaper that had a leader’s image on it for a cigarette wrapper results in the same outcome not just for the smoker but his or her entire family. Or that camp in the pseudoKorea that all the people exhibiting dwarfism were sent to once Kim Jong Il (or was it his father) saw some people who had been born like that?

      And why is family background so important to one’s political standing in the pseudoKorea? Is the pseudoKorean regime trying eugenics out on its population?

      Yeah, yeah. All that’s perfectly normal and not exceptionally harsh or cold-blooded. Not.

      Unlike the unlawful killings you’re alluding to that happened more than 40 years ago, the things I’ve outlined above are happening today in the pseudoKorea. The tragedy is that the people there could change things, if they really wanted to but they’ve concluded – as their actions demonstrate – that they are happier living their nightmare than trying to end it.

      • 정대화

        I only tried to point out to you that there are two sides to the story. So, don’t get too excited!

        You don’t have to go back to 40 years, for God’s shake. Many similar things ares unfolding right in front of your eyes right now in SK. but you either don’t know it or don’t talk about it. If you want to talk about irregularities and injustices in this world I can go on and on and eleborate for months and months.
        O.K. What’s happening right now in SK? I told you the current president Park Geun Hye, the daughter of the 18 year brutal dictator Park Chung Hee, who killed 8 innocent men in cold blood, was elected rigging election only one year ago. The SK CIA, military ciber unit, SK Veterans’ Administration, and other government organization(s) are now under investigation for
        conspiring in rigging the election, participating in manipulating
        public opinion with millions of ciber attacks on the opposition
        candiate. This is heinous crime that strikes at the core of “democratoc” values and principles anywhere, much worse than the money folding and newspaper defamation crimes you mention, because such cases may be isolated and not that wide spread, as you seem to believe – What you want to show seem only negativism of NK!!! I do condemn such stupidity but I find often that western media blow things N. Korean way out of proportion. O.K.? You talk to many westerners who worked and lived in NK will tell you different story!
        One more thing happening in SK today! One opposition lawmaker Lee Sok Hee is today given 20 year prison term, suspected of subversion to topple the country. There was this kind of treason sentence to Kim Dae-Jung, the former president, 33 years ago. He was proven innocent and elected president you know? I tell you similar crime is taking place right now in SK – much the same as 30-40 years ago. So, you are not talking about events 40 years ago! Wake up to the reality and don’t try to shup me up! You seem to be a reasonable man, therefore, all I am trying to do is to present a different point of view, supported by evidences, not hear-say, much of your arguments seem to depend on, such as profit “western” media and the corrupt media in SK. They are far from independent!

        You know some of these media went so far as to implicate Jang Song Taek’s death that his affair with Kim Jong Un’s wife Lee Sol Ju, was the cause, and that Jang was murdered by a host of hungry dogs. Papers in London, Japan, and the U.S. report these kind of sensational stuff. Ridiculous and stupid!

        • Matt Harmon

          So, you’re not denying that political dentition camps exist in the pseudoKorea? And that people are sent there for “crimes” such as folding a bill with one of the Kims’ likenesses on it…Or for “desecrating” a newspaper image of one of the Kims? And that it’s not just the “perpetrator” of these “crimes” who is sent to these camps but all three generations of their family? You’re not denying any of this?

          So since you seem to be familiar with the pseudoKorea (or at least can repeat its criticisms of the Republic of Korea), what purpose does treating people that way serve, exactly? And why doesn’t the Republic of Korea require a similar prison system?

          The pseudoKorean regime reminds me more and more every day of the Japanese colonial administration in the peninsula…Down to the “sacred” imperial leader astride his white horse in the propaganda images.

          • 정대화

            Forget about the Japanese colonialism. American imperialism tries to strangulate NK right now! If you want to talk about prisons in NK, I can talk and talk and talk about prisons in the US. The greatest number of prisons in the world and most of the detainees are blacks.
            I tell you one thing right now. Donald Gregg, the former US ambassador to SK and CIA station chief is now in N. Korea.
            If you know about the SK ship Cheonan, claimed by SK and the US that N. Korean torpedo sank it. Don. Gregg said long time agao that N. Koreans did not do it! An Isreli sub. hit her and broke her into 2 or 3 pieces, killing all 38 Israeli seaman, also killing SK sailors, 46 of them. This is a crime, I believe, conspired by the former crook and liar SK president Lee Myung-bak and Hilary Clinton. What kind of crime is this? in this day and age! This kind of lies remind me of the Gulf of Tonkin, Irag, and many many lies elsewhere. North Koean prisons are blown out of propostion by profit western media and propaganda!….If you want to talk again and again about the NK prison, believing in US government versions and western media, I find it waste of my time and futile to debate anything with you. So, this is the end of my response to you. Just check out Wayne Madsen Report and click the Cheonan and you will learn about the Isreli sub. and joint crime against NK, US imperialism in action. Forget about Jap. colonialism. O.K.? Fair enough? Good bye forever!!!

          • Matt Harmon

            And the reason you can talk about prisons in the US is because the number and ethnicity of prisoners is not a state secret. In fact, unlike in the pseudoKorea, these numbers are publicly available on the internet for all to see. Where are the numbers of the pseudoKorea’s prisoners? Why are these numbers secret? Indeed, it is futile and frustrating to try to make a point with numbers you can’t find (or is it that you’re not authorized to release them?).

            And you’re playing the anti-Isreali card? Really? Like the fascist Japanese and Nazis?

            I also know what an international committee said about whom was to blame for the Cheonan and what the United Nations Security Council said about that attack.

            Please, tell me, what is the purpose of keeping the children of political prisoners in prison camps? Why are they forced into a life of slavery for the pseudoKorean regime?

            Why is the number of prisoners in the pseudoKorea a secret?

            What purpose does that secrecy serve? Why are the emperor Kims depicted astride white horses like the Japanese leaders of the second world war? Why are foreigners not permitted to wander the streets of Pyongyang unaccompanied as they would be in New York or almost any other city of the world?

          • 정대화

            The number and ethnicity of prisoners in Abugribe and Quantanamo is not a secret? Come on. Your kind of double standard always disgusts me to say the least. Whatever prinson info. you have about NK is NOT reliable. In academia, they NEVER use defector info. Ridiculous!
            So, why you devote yourself on a flimsy topic like this??? NK does not send people to death camp for folding newspapers with Kim Jong-un on it or folding paper money, as you allege. They might with serious cases bordering on treason, like in any country.
            Tell me why America stationed some 2,000 WMD’s such as 280mm atomic cannons and 762 Honest John atomic rockets, Lance, Matador, and ADM’s(Atomic Demolition Munition) in Korea for 33 long years, between 1958-1991, in fragrant violation of the Korean Armistice Agreement?(Read Johan Galtung, The Twisting Road to Unification, Kolofon Press, 2011, p. 112) What did the UN do? NOTHING! My talk is based on evidence, while yours is on hearsay!!! Provide me with any solid evidence supporting your allegations please!
            America violates all kinds of international laws and get away with it as I illustrated above and you know it. You talk about NK prison and the white horse they ride! I am not interested. I am interested in millions of killings world over committed by the criminals in your own gov’t. Only 1% of crooks(less in fact) who thrive only on murder. I do not have any stupid time to waste with you, therefore, expect no more response from me.

          • Hanhwe Kim

            The truly sad thing about North Korea’s penal labor system is that their economy may be relying upon the output from the camps. Shin Dong-hyuk, who was born in such a camp (and the only person to escape from such a camp) says that he worked in a tire factory and then fixed sewing machines – mundane and difficult work, but anywhere else in the world, people do to escape poverty, for whatever the going wages are in that society.

            For some details check these report from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University:


          • 정대화

            Look! You people produce the Hoover Digest of 1998 and a defector account of Sun Ok Lee of 1986!!! This defector account you want me to read is almost 30 years old. Unconscionable!

            I DO NOT read CURRENT defector accounts. Period!

            Academic researches also NEVER use them as evidence!

            In SK today, much more serious things happen right now(Read the Korea Times):

            (1) Many go’t. agencies, including the KCIA, Army cyber unit, Vet. Assn., Police, and Ministry of Gov’t. Adm. participated in rigging the presidential election held only last year. They are currently under investigation. This strikes at the core of democratic values(the defector story you people seem to stress, may be isolated incidents).

            (2) Notorious KCIA and prosecutors office are CURRENTLY suspected of presenting forged documents to court, alledging that a NK defector is a NK secret agent operating in SK. His sister, also a defector, was tortured by the KCIA for 6 months to “confess” her brother is a secret agent. The above two agencies submitted as evidence exit and entry documents of the subject who traveled between SK, China, and NK.

            (3) Lo and behold! The Chinese Foreign Ministry sent its counterpart in SK that the exit/entry documents the KCIA and the Prosecutor’s Office submitted to the court, incriminating the subject, were FORGED documents and it will take appropriate action. This is a very embarrassing international incident for SK.

            (4) There are tens of such fabricated spy incidents. Many of such cases are now dismissed as INNOCENT after more than 30 years. Two such cases were dismissed innocent only recently.They have a history of concocting spy cases whenever the ruling party in power is illegitimate and in danger. America is always OBLIVIOUS of such irregularities….as everywhere else!

            You people are either ignorant of these kinds of evil developments in SK or do not care to pay much attention on such matters, swamped by your own gov’t. and media propaganda or blindly pursuing gov’t. explanations or versions of international events.

            That’s why I find it futile to talk about these things with you people, as I find you people often il-informed or mis-informed…..Good bye again!!!

          • http://www.ping-pong.net Joe Ching

            what a refreshing experience to read ur post. most of my knowledge of north korea came from the book MELTDOWN by cnn’s mike chinoy, and u have reconfirmed his findings. u and i both should join the NK NEWS team, even though they try everything let us in to let the truth out. here is my latest interaction with them:

            Re: Reporting from within North KoreaPeople

            Leo Byrne

            Jan 25


            Dear Mr Ching,

            Thanks for your e-mail. At NK News we’re always interested in developing our in country sources. However may I ask how you intend to operate in North Korea? I’d be interested to hear more about your plans with regards travelling to the DPRK and staying there for any length of time.



            On Sat, Jan 24, 2015 at 1:35 PM, joe ching wrote:

            Dear Leo and Rob,

            I am a retired nuclear engineering professor from the University of California at Berkeley. Since 2008, I have been researching and working to help bring peace to North Korea. Thus far I have noticed that news-wise, it’s nothing but self-fulfilling prophecies of war and doom for North Korea by the Western media, especially when the source is based on only information from outside of North Korea.

            This spring 2015, I plan to make it a personal and official mission to go to North Korea and reporting the going on from the inside of the country. If NKnews.org is interested to collaborate with my effort, I will be glad to contribute information and help financing this independent and fair reporting North Korea.

            Sincerely yours,

            Joe Ching, Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

            Leo Byrne
            Data / Analytic Director
            NK NEWS

            [email protected]

            m UK +44 (0)7881512110


            The views expressed in this e-mail do not necessarily reflect the views of NK Consulting, INC. unless clearly stated otherwise. This message may also contain confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail.

          • Matt Harmon

            Regarding the list of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Guantanamo_Bay_detainees

            And I can tell you that none of those people are there because they burned currency or otherwise “desecrated” a picture of a current or past leader of the United States.

            As for Abu Ghraib, well, that was in Iraq and run by the Army and CIA and I would bet that, since it was so well covered, any moderate Google search would uncover it.

            Except you probably don’t get Google there in Pyongyang, do you?

            So, no, your “talk” is based on lies.

            You write of the “millions” of killings the world over that “my” government committed. I thought we were talking of the millions of people your “government,” the pseudoKorean government, headquartered in Pyongyang, has killed and imprisoned.

            You’re welcome to ignore this, as the Kim family will no doubt ignore the UN report that came out this week detailing the crimes against humanity that the pseudoKorean regime has committed.

          • 정대화

            Full of shit again!

            Google chairman Eric Schmidt visited Pyong Yang Jan. 28, 2013.

            I DO NOT live in Pyong Yang.

            This reveals that you are woefully mis-informed or ill-informed or both about North Korea and full of bull-shits.

          • Joe Mama

            And your responses reveal that your head is firmly lodged in your rectum.

          • 정대화

            Engage in debate, rather than diatribes, you scum idiot. You are no different! Animals like George Bush & all others !!! ha, ha, ha…..!!!

          • Hello_I_Love_You

            This is such a sad spectacle. This is the type of shenanigans he engages in. Never mind the faulty reasoning and the broken English, which persists after spending years in English speaking nations and even receiving degrees from institutions thereof.

          • gjh

            You are very virtuous for carrying water for the financial oligarchy. Also, given your one-sided narrative, I can see you can read main stream news.
            This article doesn’t mention the numerous border violations of the South, tens of thousands of executions of left-wing citizens, many former partisans against the Japanese, the worse economy in the South, lack of any civil rights, etc., etc..
            No one knew in 1950 that the U.S. would subsidize, modernize and make its domestic economy prostrate to industrialize S. Korea and Taiwan in the context of the Cold War. No one knew the North would lose its trading partners in 1992. No one knew that the North would decay into an Asiatic despotism.
            What people did know was the mass unpopularity of the South, sell-out government dictatorship, the disastorous economy, and lack of any freedom of speech. As recently as 1982, the food situation was better in the North; as recently as 1980, there was a popular uprising in the South put down by the U.S. military–the unpopular South military unable and unwilling to do the job.
            North Korea is an impoverished, strictly controlled state—that’s not uncommon. Do you also have stern moralism against the 100 countries with a lower standard of living, or the 170 countries with a lower Gini coefficient? I seriously doubt people are thrown in jail for folding a dollar bill, but before you ask: Yes, there are many countries that do similar things: Kyrgistan, Turkmenistan, many countries in Africa and Latin America. Even in S. Korea, which is what the guy you are whining to is trying to say, people are thrown in jail all the time for being members of an opposition party, criticizing Samsung’s forged corporate prospectus, etc..
            It seems your stern moralism is concerned with the fact that N. Korea still has a residual collectivist content even after in publically abandoned Leninism in its 1972 constitution.

  • 정대화

    I could not agree with you more Keve.
    If I utter something like this in S. Korea, some ultra rightists(and there are plenty)will immediately brand me as a commie!
    I see with some people, it is much the same in this “land of the free and brave”….

  • 정대화

    It is no big deal. Almost everyone knows about the so called Soviet material and Kim Il Sung pleaded Stalin for support. What is not available is signal intelligence data of the U.S. and North Korean archives that need to be opened and made public which is way overdue. Bruce Cumings said, then new things may come out and a different history may be written.

    I still suspect that there are some lies that are hidden in the history of the Korean War, as in many other wars…..

    One prudent way of studying causes of war is to find out who benefited the most out of the war!

    • Hanhwe Kim

      정대화님, while I would welcome seeing more information from the US and North Korea, I would wager you will not find support for any American plot to provoke the North Koreans and Stalin to spend years planning and preparing an invasion, and then launching it on Sunday June 25, 1950.

      I fail to see how the Americans benefited the most from the Korean War. After spilling blood and spending treasure, the Americans barely got a stalemate. If the Americans wanted to keep troops in Korea, they probably could have even without the war. The Americans had huge bases in the Philippines until the end of the Cold War.

      The Americans did indeed drop more bombs in Korea than in WWII, although I believe more bombs were dropped in Vietnam than Korea. The Americans also began running short of artillery ammunition by 1953. There was rationing of copper in the US around that time. The Korean War also diverted American attention and money from Europe where it was trying to build up NATO.

      By the time the Armistice was signed, the Americans were under so much pressure to stop fighting that they gave up trying to get back tens of thousand of South Korean POWs that the North Koreans did not even include on their rosters. This does not look like a party that is benefiting from the war.

      On the other hand, if you look at the Soviets, and Stalin in particular, he made some significant geopolitical gains.

      By 1949, the Soviets had nuclear weapons so they could deter an American attack on their homeland. But the big set back in Europe was that the Americans were able to build NATO. On the other had, Mao had won a victory in China.

      A war in Korea – as long as it did not end up with Soviets fighting the Americans directly – would be the perfect way to capitalize on Mao’s victory. A communist victory in Korea would be splendid. However, Stalin needed someone other than the Soviets to fight the Americans if they should intervene and the North Koreans get in trouble. That would be Mao’s job.

      If Stalin could get China to back up North Korea against the Americans, even a stalemate would serve him well. The Americans would bleed and divert their attention away from Europe.

      The war goes according to such plans. The North Koreans almost win outright in the summer of 1950, but the American intervention stops that. The Chinese save the North Koreans from collapse and go on to bleed the Americans in Korea for the next several years.

      The Soviets spent far less on the Korean War than any of the other parties. They gave far less military aid to China than they initially promised. They further infuriated the Chinese by withholding not only air support (although a small number of Soviet pilots did fight secretly) but even proper anti-aircraft weapons.

      None of the weapons they gave the North Koreans were for free. The North Koreans sent back to the Soviets monazite, which contained rare earth and radioactive materials necessary for nuclear research, and other minerals even before the Armistice. Much of the monazite and minerals were mined by South Korean POWs the North Koreans continued to detain after the Armistice.

      By 1953, the only party that wanted to keep fighting indefinitely was Stalin. It was not until he died that there could be serious Armistice negotiations.

      In summary, Stalin benefited from the Korean war by:
      – getting a chance for yet another communist victory in Asia
      – If North Korea(or North Korea + China) did not win, then the war would bleed the Americans

      • 정대화

        Yes, Stalin did benefit from the Korean war. He wanted to pin Americans in a land war in Asia with the Chinese. Yes, he delayed the Korean war and delayed the armistiice talks. He wanted to take a breath from American pressures in Europe, therefore, wanted to divert the pressure from Europe to Asia somewhat yes.
        I did not say that Stalin did not gain anything from the Korean war.
        I said America gained the most, by intervening in the Korean civil war, keeping the country divided in the cold war, bled Koreans white and burned them with napalm to death, and devastated the whole country.
        The intensive 6 mos. war is as follow:
        June, 1950, the Korean war start
        July, 1950: Americans intervene
        August, ” :

        • Hanhwe Kim

          I do not know why Kim eventually attacked in June rather than Oct but I would wager it was not because the Americans somehow tricked him into doing so. While there would be some advantages to having tanks move more freely, during WW2, the Soviets had fought the Germans with tanks in terrain that is much wetter and muddier than Korea.

          In any case, the invasion was planned months ahead of time. So unless we find that the Americans had spies within the Soviet staff that planned the combat operations, I would wager that the dynamics between Kim, Stalin and Mao, or the situation with the communist insurgency within South Korea (which had been almost completely put down by 1950) had more to do with the date of the invasion than American provoking, or somehow tricking Kim, Mao and Stalin to attack in June.

          Cumings’ theory of the war starting in Ongjin sounded more plausible before the Soviet Archives became public. There was actually a good deal of combat in the Ongjin peninsula before the war started. I believe the original Soviet plans called for a limited attack into Ongjin, blaming the South for starting the war and then quickly escalating it into a general offensive. For some reason Kim changed the plan to start with a general offensive, without the Ongjin operation.

          I find it even more difficult to believe that somehow the war in Korea was started because the US was worried that Mao would invade Taiwan. I doubt Mao had a navy at all, let alone one that could defeat the US Pacific Fleet.

          Even if Mao did have some way of invading Taiwan, starting a war in Korea, where the Americans had to deploy multiple aircraft carriers would be the least rational American response to a threat to invade Taiwan by Mao.

          US nukes in South Korea was common knowledge. The Americans had them there for the same reason North Korea wants them today: they feared they would lose a conventional war. Throughout the 1980’s, before North Korea’s economy fell apart, it was the North Koreans who had the upper hand in terms of conventional forces.

          At this point I do not think I will change your mind either. There is no need to apologize since I too have other things I should be doing. Good day.

  • Hanhwe Kim

    정대화님, if the Americans were trying to entrap the North Koreans into attacking the South, and had plans to subjugate the entire Peninsula, they certainly did a poor job. If they did indeed have “full information,” they made very poor use of such information.

    The initial American force that tried to stop the North Korean offensive was overrun and its commander, General Dean was taken prisoner. His unit was complete routed by the North Koreans and he was captured hiding by himself in an abandoned hut. I believe he was the highest ranking US officer to be taken prisoner.

    Also, it is puzzling that the Americans with full information were again caught blindsided by the Chinese. The US 8th Army and X Corps suffered the worst defeat of an American field army in history, measured in terms of casualties, in the Winter of 1950-51.

    I find it hard to believe the side with full information could manage to lose 30,000 men in multiple military fiascos and after spilling so much blood and spending so much treasure, obtain only a stalemate along the DMZ at the same place the war started.

    • 정대화

      Let’s say “enough’ information, if not full. All I tried to say was that America had enough knowledge of Kim Il-sung preparing for the war. It was not a “surprise” per se in that sense. Don’t get me wrong.
      I don’t understand why you guys cannot imagine the U.S. (like they eavesdrop today world over according to Ed. Snowden) deciphered telex messages between Kim Il-sung and Stalin and Kim Il-sung and Mao in 1950 or before, when they could in WWII, deciphering codes of the Japs. and the Germans???
      I am not a military historian or expert, but the Smith unit that landed in South Korea in July was inexperienced in war whereas, the N. Korean unit that fought against the Japs. in China had much experience!
      Also, Gen. Doug. MacArthur did not predict Chinese entry into the war, thus unprepared(?), telling his soldiers, “Home by Christmas!” in 1950. The Chinese entered in November and shattered his prediction. So many American soldiers froze to death and I understand they cursed the 5 star general for lack of intelligence and ignorance!
      In peninsular war, I understand it’s written in the text book of the West Point that, strategy calls for withdrawal to the end of the peninsula and then land in the middle of the peninsula, which is exactly what the U.S. did landing in Inchon in Sept., 1950. So, I say they knew what they were doing…..
      Furthermore, MacArthur uttered something like: I will defeat the peasant army(of China) with my hands folded! If you cannot believe, as you say and I quote: “the side with full info. could mannage to lose 30,000 men(in fact 35,000) in multiple military fiascos and after spilling so much blood and spending so much treasure, obtain only a stalemate along the DMZ at the place the war started,” it is your problem.
      I am shocked you talk about losing so many men, spilling so much blood! You know Amerika dropped more bombs on Korea than on Japan in WWII and Amerika killed more Koreans, north and south, sacrificing a total of 5.27 million people, more poeple they killed in Japan in WWII and in all Vietnam war. More civilians were sacrificed in Korea in the history of human warfare. Shame on you!
      In this war, Amerika gained the most inspite of your lack of knowlege of this war. Amerika wanted to defend Japan at all cost. The left wing of the defense of Japan was defense of Taiwan and the right wing of the defense of Japan was defense of S. Korea. Amerika defended all these lands then and still today. They benefited the most in the cold war. Koreans lost the most.
      The 60 year old Korean cease-fire agreement is still not transfomred into a peace treaty due to American intransigence.
      Is this a fair game? Look, N. Korea, in the last 60 years did not
      invade any country. Robert Gates, in his memoirs, said Amerika invaded or intervened 44 times since the WWII. Who is peace loving and who is agressor in this world.
      North Korea developed nukes in response to many a threats to bomb them to pre-stone age by Amerika. They now can attack US mainland. Amerika asked for it….
      China and Russia recognized S. Korea long time ago. US and Japan did not and still do not recognize N. Korea, a UN member state, and normalize relations with N. Korea. Is this fair play?
      Look, in the last 60 years, Amerika intervened in Korea and Vietnam, without winning, invaded Iraq and intervened in Afghanistan….and in all these cases, S. Korean army dispatched troops to all these countries….Who is more peace oriented, the U.S.? S. Korea, or N. Korea???
      Just remember, Amerika benefited the most in the Korean war and the Korean people sacrificed the most in this war, in spite of your arguments that they did a “poor job.” I disagree.
      They defended Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea and they still do. You call this a poor job? Come on!
      Just remember: I taught my students, American foreign policy is the policy of deception and manipulation! I love America and American people. But I cannot say that about the 1% greedy
      ruling clique of Amerika who thrive on war and killing. Watch out!!!

      • Hanhwe Kim

        The Americans and South Koreans had a great deal of information from radio intercepts and even defectors from North Korea telling them that the North Koreans were preparing to attack by early 1950. They probably heard that 60,000 ethnic Korean veterans who had served with Mao had joined the North Korean People’s Army (KPA), and the Soviets were training the North Koreans to conduct large scale mechanized operations. Preparations that scale are impossible to hide.

        The problem was that they had been hearing such information since 1949. It makes sense since Kim Il-Sung had been requesting permission to attack even before the Americans had pulled out the last of their troops. The Soviets had also been building up the KPA for years.

        Therefore, the most likely explanation is not that the Americans intentionally let the North Koreans attack and then proceeded to send an inexperienced force to get routed and get an American general captured. The more likely explanation is that the Americans had no idea that Stalin had given Kim permission around 1949 and that Stalin had changed his mind about fighting in Korea. Thus, they discounted all the information they were getting from defectors about an imminent attack since they had been hearing such reports for over a year by 1950. Thus they were unprepared for the scale and intensity of the North Korean attack.

        The excesses of the “greedy ruling clique” of America (and anywhere else in the world for that matter) is well documented. See “War is a Racket” by Gen. Smedly D. Butler (two time Medal of Honor recipient and retired US Marine Corps General who became a pacifist in the 1930s). Also check any of Eisenhower’s warnings about the Military-Industrial Complex. However, trying to find grand conspiracies about Korea and trying to explain that somehow the Americans lost “on purpose” in Korea, when there is now extensive evidence on the complex relationship between Stalin, Mao and Kim and the origins of the North Korean invasion of June 25, 1950 is just not good scholarship nor a likely explanation of the reality.

        Does this mean that Syngman Rhee or others of the ruling class in South Korea were completely innocent pacifists? Of course not. Between 1945-50, over 300,000 people were killed in South Korea in fighting between communists and the government. Countless atrocities were committed by both sides.

        Before the Soviet Archives were available, Prof. Cumings’ contribution was recognizing that the Korean War did not happen in a vacuum and placing it in the context of the struggle for control over South Korea. He argued well against theories that the Korean War was entirely Stalin’s doing and Kim was just Stalin’s puppet. He also showed that Rhee manipulated the Americans as much as they tried to manipulate him and showed that the civil war in Korea has deeper roots than just June 25 1950. Much of that analysis is completely still valid.

        However, with regards to North Korea’s decision to attack on June 25, 1950 and start a full-scale conventional war, we now know the truly interesting aspect is the complex interactions between Kim, Stalin, and Mao. Their relationships, and the way they decided to initiate the invasion is probably more complex than anyone imagined.

  • Xio Gen

    You’re reading this website now, aren’t you?

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  • Nathaniel Downes

    I’ve been in the middle of a lot of research on this subject recently, and the conclusion I’ve come up with is “both sides.”

    In the lead-up to the 25th of June invasion by the North, the South had engaged in cross-border operations. I even found records of a tank operation in Ongjin which began at 2am on the 25th of June, two hours before North Korea began shelling in that very spot. The book The Riddle of MacArthur: Japan, Korea, and the Far East by John Gunther gave a lot of insight to the days immediately before and after the start of the war.

    To my eyes, it looked like the South was trying to goad the North into invasion. Likely, they assumed that their men and equipment could handle anything thrown at them.

    Just because one side does not tell the truth does not mean the other one is.

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  • 정대화

    Gangseter criminal regime?: You, talking about George Bush, the animal??? You sounds like a modern day McCarhyist !!!

  • 정대화

    I don’t read Wathersby. Peiod.
    Kim Il-sung prepared for the war. U.S. knew about it, withdraw U.S. troops one year before the war, created sort of a trap, and let it happen, with a massive intervention. I believe U.S. induced the war in Cold War, benefitting the most.
    There was a lot of lies and cover-ups, including the unconscionable germ warfare in Korea and China, read “Needam Report” in http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/ for lies !!!

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  • William Schwartz

    I’ve always wondered when this question comes up how North Korean history defines “starting a war”. Most nations did not consider Korea two separate countries at the time the war started. Initial press reports simply described the conflict as a civil war. The language describing it as a Northern invasion of the South only started when the US State Department started pressuring the media, because if the conflict was a civil war the US couldn’t really justify an intervention.

    If you consider the war as having started when UN forces finally start pushing back effectively when the South Korean government was cornered in Busan, describing it as an American invasion sounds a lot more sensible. If not for UN involvement the war would have been over in mere weeks with barely any damage done to the Korean people and countryside.

    In that context it’s easy enough to see the war as being the fault of Western interlopers- South Korean soldiers had almost no morale and it’s hard to blame them. They were being ordered to shoot fellow Koreans with superior arms for the sake of a thinly veiled dictatorship that was openly massacring anyone who could be plausibly accused of Communist sympathies.

    Even from the US perspective the benefits of fighting were dubious, since absent US involvement in backing South Korea up a united Korea was unlikely to have any serious issue with the American government that had helped liberate Korean from Japanese control only a few years earlier. Hence why the State Department had to instruct the press to get their message straight once the Truman Administration decided to intervene.

    Maybe I’m rambling a bit…it just seems unfair to me that this particular question is always posed in such black-and-white terms when documentation from the time indicates a much murkier moral ground. “who shot first” isn’t really that relevant a question, given that what everybody really wanted was a unified Korea and were willing to use any moral high ground they could find to obtain it on their terms.