Korea became a center of interest for several countries after the World War II with countries such as China, Japan, Union Soviet and United States of America showing a lot of determination to control this small country. It should be noted that the World War II had left many countries both politically and economically unstable. Korea being rich in minerals such as coal was one of the major reasons that made countries that had survived World War II to have interest in Korea’s resources in order to improve their economy and political performances. United States of America is one of the countries that shown a lot of interest on Far East countries immediately after the World War II. US had emerged a super power after the war and it felt that it was important to let its economic and military superiority be felt by other states. US also wanted to control affairs of other states that appeared influential to its policies and benefits as a superpower. This factor made the United States to have cold war immediately after the 2nd World War due to long time disagreement between the two states. United Nation was in favor of capitalism and Soviet Union believed in communism.
How do American and Korean perspective on the Korean War differ? Considering all the information about the Korean War, it is evident that America and Korea had totally opposing views. Generally, Koreans wanted to be united as one country instead of dividing into north and South Korea and with one legitimate government. It is worth noting that Korean people had been a colony of Japan for 45 years and becoming a sovereign united state was a reason enough to make it enter into war with their colonizers and political enemies. The Korean believed that it was worth losing their lives fighting for the unison of their country other than allowing other countries to split then into two regions in order to quench their political and economic thirst just as the US and Soviet Union were doing. Therefore, Koreans, viewed war as the only way fight for their unity since diplomacy had proven futile.
Some of the Koreans especially those from the north who had already been introduced into communism viewed the Korean War as an indication of the American aggressiveness and imperialism especially after the World War II. They felt that the war had immense negative effects to Korea domestic affairs since those from the north were not allowed to mingle freely with those from the south. This was evidenced by the US support of the establishment of the 38th degree latitude to separate northern and southern Korea. On the other hand, Koreans from the south believed that USA was there to help them fight their long time enemies and take control of their country. This was evidence by the US reorganization of the Korean government in exile and its support to Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang in the region of Taiwan that China considered as there’s.
Additionally, the Korean perspective on the aggressive nature of the Americans in handling the Korean War was denoted by the aircraft carriers that belonged to the seventh US-fleet straight to the Taiwan Strait. This was especially the consideration that Taiwan was an inner-Chinese affair and the notion was upheld by the Communist China. When the US led the UN troops in crossing the 38th degree latitude and saw the North Korean Army being forced to retreat and move back to river Yalu which is situated in Chinese-Korean border, the Korean perceived that their security interest to re-unite their country had been achieved during the war since crossing of the 38th latitude by US troops was a an indication that Korea was about to be re- united. This made Koreans from south to be more withstanding to the war unlike their brothers and sisters from north who felt that the war was meant to destroy their relationship with their neighboring countries since US was using it to invade them. The northern people viewed the War as an indirect strategy by the Americans to go into war with PR China. To them the US support to Guomindang, A South Korean leader, was just a preemptive strike that was imposed on the aggressiveness of the intentions of the Americans.
On the other hand, the American had a totally different perspective point of view on the Korean War. It is worth noting that the Americans wanted to continue controlling Korea from the standpoint of trusteeship. This is evident from the fact that The American president Truman and his counterpart from the Soviet Union intentions to grant Korean independence were based on undetermined future date. They both agreed that Korea was not stable enough to take control of its affairs. The Americans did not want the Soviet Union to take control of the entire Korean as a united nation showing that they too had interest in this resourceful country. Therefore, to the Americans, the Korean War was a tool to scatter the Koreans more in order to take control of their resources. They used war to achieve divide and rule policy that is common to political leaders. They knew that presence of the war would make Korean weaker both economically and politically making it easier for them to come in disguised as helpers.
The Americans also viewed the Korean War as a threat to the superiority that they had previously acquired during the 2nd World War. They favored capitalistic economy while most of the Asian countries led by Soviet Union were for communism. To the Americans, their involvement in the Korean War was a substantial effort to ensure that their policies on capitalism acquired more global reorganization. According to the senator of the Republican by then, Joseph McCarthy, US used the Korean War to exercise its malicious campaign against communist growth in the government and the entire public at large. More so, the US had not recovered from the shock after losing China territory to communists and they were not ready to take chances. The Truman government had received criticism for being lenient to communism and it was left with no option other than using the war to prevent similar occurrence in Korea and other parts of Asia that were under its control.
Basically, the Americans viewed the Korean War as an opportunity to establish its strategy against the superfluous advancement of communism in Asian countries. The American believed that the fight of the Ho Chi Mins in Vietnam against the French men, the acceptance Soviet Union by the Vietnam people and later China entering into a treat with the government of Soviet Union was an aggressive attempt by the international world to spread communism. When North Korea attacked South Korea, the US found a good chance to intervene and defend it capitalistic policies. Its involvement in the Korean War aimed at establishing a protective belt in the Asian territory and silence communistic politics that were popular in USSR after 1949. Generally, the American viewed the Korean War as the right situation to prove to the Asian countries its political and military prowess after the 2nd World War, and its ability to influence international decisions especially those of the United Nations.
Why do they differ? Considering the American and the Korean viewpoint of the Korean War, it is obvious that the two parties had to differ since they were two totally different mind sets based on different interests. To the Koreans, going into the war was the only means for attaining their independence since diplomacy could no longer work. On the other hand, the American’s intention was to continue controlling Korea, just like its former colonizers, arguing that it was not yet ready to rule itself. Therefore, the Korean went into war hoping that if they emerge victorious they would then become a sovereign state. This evidenced by the fact that they had their own government in exile that could resume responsibilities of controlling the country immediately after the war. Korea was surrounded by strong countries and they all wanted a share of its land and resources. They included, Soviet Union that had taken North Korea, China that wanted to expand it borders near the region of Taiwan and river Yalu and it former colonizers Japan. When the US and UN troops came in to support Korean especially Chiang Kai-shek’s Guomindang in the region of Taiwan, Koreans welcomed them and felt that the war could be much easier and shorter. An opinion poll taken by the US Military Government in Korea in August 1946 showed that 14% of 8,453 Koreans polled, favored capitalism, 70% favored socialism, 7% Communism and 8% non-committal. Majority of the Korean people were in favor of socialism and this was against the American policies that favored capitalism resulting to more differences between the two countries.
Contrary to the Koreans expectations, Americans had different hidden goals that they wanted to achieve during the war. Though they appeared in favor of the Koreans, the Intentions of the Americans were to ensure that Koreans remained under their control for a longer time. They therefore entered into an agreement with Soviet Union, Korean enemies by then, leading to establishment of the 38th latitude that separated Korea into Northern and Southern regions. The Koreans thought that presence of US in the war could result to their unity but they were divided into two regions without freedom of movement. However, the American’s intention in the war was to weaken powers vested to countries in favor of communism in order to maintain it superpower nature. The fact that Americans took control of the southern part is clear evidence that their core reason for joining the Korean War was not to help but to get a share of this small country in order to extend their capitalistic policies to the Asian countries. It is therefore clear that Koreans and the Americans were in the same war but with totally different motives hence resulting to differences.
What is the consequence of the different national perspective? Different national viewpoint of the Korean War between the Americans and the Koreans had several consequences to both countries. Generally, consequences of the war were beneficial to the Americans unlike the Koreans who lost lives and their country to foreigners as a result of the war. Initially, Koreans thought that American’s intentions were to help them fight their enemies in order to gain independence as united country. However, this goal could not be achieved since Americans too had their own intention for participating in the Korean War. One of the major consequences of this difference was the inability of the Koreans to govern themselves after the 2nd World War since the Americans and the Soviet Union could not let them. Korean government remained unstable since the America did not offer it full support and this enabled the Soviet Union to extend its communism ideology throughout the region leading to socialism in Korea.
The Americans and the Soviet Union felt that Korea was not in a position to govern itself and this led to them not granting it independence in time. They divided it into two parts using latitude 38° in order to protect their own interests. This was a big blow to the Koreans because they wanted self-rule so that they could control the future of their country without influence from foreigners. When the Koreans realized that Americans were no different from their other enemies, they were very annoyed making the trusteeship that they had entered with the American meaningless. This difference also made Koreans to consider the intervention of the US in the Korean War as an act of idealism and altruism. Consequently, a state of anti-Americanism began in South Korea and the relationship between the Americans and the Koreans in the south became sour. Nationalist movements such as that of Chejudo people were then formed to fight for basic human rights and to end US imperialistic domination of Korea in order to achieve self government. Native Americans were therefore killed in the process by the Koreans resulting to killing of civilians as the US forces responded to defend its people. This created antagonism between the Americans and the Koreans that is experienced even today.
Is it useful to characterize the Korean War as forgotten, limited or police actions? The Korean War is referred by historians as the “Forgotten War” and it is not given much emphasizes when addressing historic wars that have been experienced in different parts of the world. Most historians view it as it as a forgotten war since most countries did not care much about its occurrence. They viewed it as an internal issue that could be solved by only the Koreans without intervention of other countries. They had witnessed or heard about severe wars such as the 1st World War and 2nd World War which involve more parts of the world and more lives were lost. To the rest of the world, the Korean War was characterized as the “Forgotten War” because they had fresh memories of severe and great wars such as the 2nd World War and that of Vietnam. Victors and victims of these two great wars were still recovering from their severity and had little or no time to focus on the Korean War.
However it should be noted that the Korean War was not a state issue just like many people and historians argued. The war had no major difference with great wars such as that of Vietnam, 1st and 2nd World War and it is not justifiable to perceive it as “Forgotten War”. The war was not purely about policing in Korean and therefore it cannot be characterized as an internal state affair. Considering the impact of the war, the Korean War led to loss of lives, property, division of Korean country and antagonism among major influential countries result to instability in east and middle Asia countries.
The war also involved Great War personalities such as Mc Arthur, Stalin of Soviet Union, Mao from China and Truman from the USA. Most of the participants in the Korean War had played major roles in the 2nd World War and they were known to be subjects of fatal wars that had taken place in their countries during their regimes. More so, the impacts of the Korean War are still felt today and are the reason for hostility that exists between western countries and those from Asia. The Koreans had never recovered fully from the severity of this war and therefore it is not useful to characterize the Korean War as forgotten, limited or even police actions as majority of the Historians view it.
What are the Key developments from 1947-1954? There are several key developments that took place between 1947 and 1954 that will be remembered by the Koreans for many years to come. These occurrences are responsible for the current situation in Korea today. In 1948, elections were held in South Korea and President Rhee emerged the winner. His core goal was to unite North and South Korea into one country. This led to withdrawal of the American troops in 1949 leaving South Korea without military backup. Consequently, on June 1950, South Korea was invaded very easily and it was captured together with the Americans residing there. Later in the year China and Soviet Union declared that they were willing to help North Korean in fighting South Korea and this made the president of America by then, Truman, to commit US military forces in South Korea in 1950. The UN resolution was written in the same year in order to send international forces from 16 countries to South Korea. Out of the 300000 UN troops that were sent to South Korea, 260000 were Americans.
During 1950 and 1951, the international society had felt the impact of the Korean War and peaceful negotiations were already in progress. In July 1950, the UN Army, led by General MacArthur, went to Korea, drove back the North Koreans and recaptured South Korea. 125,000 NKPA prisoners were captured as the Americans invaded North Korea and advanced as far as the Chinese border. Negotiations took longer than usual and most of the parties involved started lacking patience but eventually, peaceful agreement was signed in July 1953 bringing the Korean War to end with approximately 10 million people having lost their lives in the in the war. This was made possible by election of Eisenhower as the new president of USA. Peace talks continued in 1954 in order to ensure that the warring sides had no reasons at all to go back to war.
How these issues are treated in the film “The Korean War”? The film on the Korean War portrays clearly all the issues and operations that took place in Korea immediately after the Second World War up to the time of the Korean War. Generally, the film is more over a chronological representation of the developments that took place in Korea between 1947 and 1954. The film tries to show the world that the war was not a forgotten one as viewed by historians by illustrating on the events that took place during that period. It is clear from the film that the intentions of the Americans in participating in the Korean War were not purely to help South Korea but to maintain their political superiority and continue to have control over its subjects. The film illustrates clearly that it was Truman who extended the duration after which Korea was to be granted independence in order to protect his political interest.
Truman policies were strongly rejected by the Koreans and the film show clearly that the Korean and the American had totally a different perspective of the war since the Korean were fighting for their independence whereas the American participated in the war in order to protect it superiority and prevent spreading of communism that was overpowering its capitalistic policies. According to the film, Korean War was unpopular in America as they were concentrating in fighting communism. However, over 330,000 Americans lost their lives and many families were torn apart by the war. Many Koreans too lost their lives and others were held as prisoners without access to basic human rights. According to the film, Truman, who had no knowhow in handling foreign affairs, took control of every aspect of peace negotiations from Washington DC making it personal hence prolonging the war. It is the threats of using atomic bombs in the war that provoked other powerful countries such as United Kingdom to call for peace negotiations that led to the end of war.
The behavior of the Koreans as portrayed in the film shows that the native people had nothing to show out of their country and they only participated in the war in order to survive. The film connects developments that took place before and after the war. It shows why Korea was split into two regions, South and North Korea and why other countries such as China and Soviet Union had interest in Korea. Generally, the film illustrates how different actions by different parties that participated in the war influenced declaration of Korea as an independent country. It also show that, Korean War was as a result of economic and political misunderstanding among the superpower countries after the 2nd World War and not a police action in Korean as viewed by historians.