Today is June 25, 2018, marking 68 years since the beginning of the Korean War.
To commemorate this – perhaps the most tragic event in Korean history – the following provides translations of the reports of the first day of war made by both North and South Korea immediately after the war started.
South Korean reaction
Below is the piece which was published in the South Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo (동아일보) on June 26:
The puppet army suddenly made an attempt to launch an offensive to the South.
A state of emergency was declared throughout the 38th parallel.
Elite parts of the National Army are repelling an enemy attack.
The state of defense is excellent, do not succumb to the psychological attack of the enemy.
Yesterday, on the 25th day, at dawn from five to eight o’clock in the morning, the “people’s army” of the puppet North Korean clique made an aggressive attack at Kaesong, Changdan, Uijongbu, Tongduchon, Chungchon, Kangnung and a number of other settlements located in the vicinity of the 38th parallel. The soldiers of the elite parts of our army immediately joined the fight. The head of the Department of Information and Training of the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Lee Son-gun, made the following statement about the situation in the area of combat operations:
On the 25th day at dawn from five to eight o’clock in the morning, the puppet clique of the North made a massive illegal offensive to the South. The offensive of the puppet clique in the areas of the former Ongjin district, Kaesong, Changdan, Uijongbu, Tongduchon, Chungchon, Kangnung began almost simultaneously. They planned to land the naval landing. Our troops fight their attacks, the command begins to immediately deploy troops. In addition, in the area of Tongduchon, the enemy suddenly put forward tank units and said that it had destroyed our armored vehicles.
Their reckless assault is an attempt to destroy our Republic of Korea, which has achieved even greater prosperity and success in domestic and foreign policy after the Second General Elections, through means of aggression. It is clear that the puppet-clique figures resorted to the old trick of communists gangsters, that their talks about the peaceful reunification of the Motherland, about the negotiations between the South and the North, were meaningless from beginning to end. News about our military successes will be published later. Until then, do not yield to the ruses of enemy propaganda and help our troops.
Colonel’s Lee forced optimism was unfounded, as the ROK was not ready to withstand an invasion of the North Korean army, armed with Soviet weaponry. Seoul fell just two days after this announcement.
North Korean announcement
Dear compatriots! Beloved brothers and sisters! Commanders, NCOs, and soldiers of the People’s Army! Partisans operating in the southern half of our Republic!
I am speaking to you as a representative of the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
On June 25, the army of the puppet treacherous Lee Sung-man’s government began, throughout the 38th parallel, an offensive on the northern half of our Republic. The brave garrison detachments of the Republic took upon themselves the blow of the enemy. The battles unfolded, the offensive of Lee Sung-man’s army collapsed.
Having discussed the situation, the government of the DPRK gave an order to our People’s Army to go over to a decisive counteroffensive and to defeat the enemy’s armed forces. Fulfilling the order of the Government of the Republic, the People’s Army expelled the enemy from the territory north of the 38th parallel and advanced south by 10-15 km. The People’s Army liberated Onjin, Yonan, Kaesong, Paechon and a number of other towns and settlements.
Notably, Kim Il Sung’s message copied the style of a famous address of Joseph Stalin made on July 3, 1941 – soon after the USSR was invaded by Nazi Germany. The difference, of course, was that here it was Kim Il Sung who was the aggressor – but he did not want to be presented as such.
It has been about 25 years since documents from the Soviet Union about the beginning of the Korean War were published. It is already well known that it was the North which started the war. We know how it was prepared, how Stalin initially opposed Kim Il Sung’s idea of invading the South, but then – in early 1950 – agreed to it.
But one can say that it is enough to look at the above excerpts and compare the confused tone of the South Korean press with the confident tone of Kim Il Sung’s proclamation concluding which side was the aggressor. These sources are and were completely open: Kim Il Sung’s proclamation was reprinted many times after the war, and Dong-a Ilbo is one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the South. One could always visit the archive section of their office and read it.
And yet, until the early 1990s, a number of leftist historians – both in South Korea and in the West – were trying to prove that there was a high chance that the South was the aggressor, pointing to the ‘vile nature’ of the Syngman Rhee government.
Interestingly, after the publication of these documents, the attitudes of Pyongyang’s supporters towards the beginning of the war were flipped completely. They began saying it was not really important who launched the invasion (although earlier this was the only thing which mattered), and that responsibility for the war was to be shared by both the South and the North.
This author is not trying to defend Lee – probably the most oppressive and cruel ruler in the South Korean history – but the man was not responsible for the war, as the invasion was conceived by Kim Il Sung and Pak Hon Yong, approved by the Soviet ambassador Shtykov, and authorised by Stalin.
And, of course, in the DPRK they continue to write that when the war began, the heroic People’s Army launched a counteroffensive on the same day that the South invaded it, resulting in the doctrine of the “war of Southern Aggression” lying at the root of the North Korean ideology.
Edited by Colin Zwirko
Featured image: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
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