“The Korean War of 1950-53 was the most important war ever fought between the West and Communism.” (Halliday & Cumings) Many people view the Korean War as merely a civil war, not out of place when it is understood the extreme differences between the two Koreas: the North is a Communist dictatorship, the South a free Republic. The North, a starving, backwards nation, the South one of the most stable, with enough stability to have hosted the 1988 summer Olympic Games in its capital Seoul. However, in the words of an angry 28-year-old Korean student, the United States was using Korea as a puppet: “…[he was] insisting that the United States was responsible for Chun’s rule and that Washington was manipulating Korea for its own Cold War purposes.” (Oberdorfer, 165) Perhaps manipulating was an understandably bitter adjective concerning the circumstances, but the United States was in the war in order that Communism would be contained; the purpose of the Cold War. Overall, the Cold War’s purpose was to limit the expansion of Communism, and there were many reasons for the United States’ involvement in this war. The consequences of the Korean War are substantial as well. The Korean War, which technically never ended, continues today with the DMZ acting as the border between the two Koreas perpetually at war.
The idea of containment, which is the policy of resisting further expansion of the Soviet bloc [and therefore Communism] through diplomacy and, if necessary, military action, developed inn 1947-1948.” (TAJ, 798) This idea was marked by the National Security Council Paper 68, which reiterated this concept as well as “…commit the United States to a military approach to a military approach to the war.” (TAJ , 800) What all this meant was that Communism was to be stopped at all costs, and not always diplomatically-militarily as well. This urgency to stop the spread of Communism that was so prevalent throughout the Democratic and Western world was what set the stage for the Korean War.
Korea itself was ripe for war as well. The North was under the rule of the Communist Kim Il Sung, who looked for radical social and political change. The South was under a more conservative leader Syngman Rhee, who led an equally conservative government. These two dissimilar countries were separated only by the 38th parallel established by military decision. Both saw the 38th parallel as a temporary barrier, and both hoped to unite Korea once again. It was eventual that one would make the first move and invade the other in order to accomplish this end, and the North invaded the South on June 25th, 1950.
Several factors (other than containment) merited the involvement of the United States and other democratic nations. One of these factors was the position of Korea: which has caused its extensive history of belligerency: “With three powerful neighbors-China, Russia, and Japan- Korea had always had to fight for its independence.” (TAJ, 800) If Communism would prevail in all of Korea, then a significant foothold for Democracy would be lost in the midst of an overwhelmingly Communist Asia. This was one factor; the other was that Korea was the only point at which the U.S. had “direct confrontation with the Soviet Union in Asia.” (TAJ, 801) So Korea was important to keep Communist and Soviet Union- free for this reason as well.
The consequences of the Korean War are various as well. One of which is that the Korean was an earlier version of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was north v. south and Communism v. Democracy as well. The Korean helped to “…legitimitize the United Nations and set a precedent for its peace-keeping role in places like the Middle East.” (TAJ, 804) The Korean War, in addition, strengthened the doctrine set out in the NSC-68: to fight against Communism militarily.
Conclusively, the Korean War was not merely a Korean War. It was a multi-national effort, with the U.S. as a major player. Keeping Korea democratic was key in our fight against Communism in the mid-20th century. Overall, the Korean War was as much the United States’, and the Soviet Unions’ as it was Korea's.