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The aftermath of the Korean War was profound in geopolitical terms for much of the world.[citation needed] The Korean War was important in the development of the Cold War, as it gave rise to the idea that the two superpowers, United States and Soviet Union, could fight a "limited war" in a third country. The "limited war" strategy was a feature of conflicts such as the Vietnam War and the Soviet War in Afghanistan.

The Korean War was the first war in which the United Nations (UN) participated. Some commentators argued that it showed that the UN was a powerful organization for helping to keep world peace.[citation needed] The UN Command in South Korea is still functional.

The war scarred both North and South Korea very much. Both nations suffered massive damage to their economies and infrastructure as a result of bombings and artillery strikes. In the aftermath of the war, South Korea was able to modernize and industrialize with the help of the United States.[citation needed] By contrast, North Korea's economy was, though at first was robust, however, by the 1980s, quite weak and has remained in poor condition.

Australia and New Zealand[]

From 1950 to 1953, 17,000 in the Army, Navy and Air Force fought as part of the United Nations multinational force.

New Zealand troops participated in two major battles in 1951. On April 22, 1951, Chinese forces attacked the Kapyong valley and forced South Korean and New Zealand troops into retreat; other UN troops, including the kiwis, were ordered to halt the attack. After a night of fierce fighting, during which the allied positions were overrun, the kiwis counterattacked and recaptured their positions, stalling the Chinese advance. The kiwis suffered very few casualties. For their contribution to this action, 3 RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) was awarded a U.S. Presidential Citation.[1][Clarification needed]

Australian soldiers participated in Operation Commando, an attack against a Chinese-held position in a bend of the Imjin River, a river running north–south that crosses the 38th parallel north just above Seoul. The attack began on October 3, 1951, and after five days of heavy fighting the Chinese withdrew. Twenty Australians were killed in the battle and 89 were wounded.[1]

As the war continued, several other nations grew less willing to contribute more ground troops. Australia, however, increased its troop strength in Korea.[1]

After the war ended, Australians remained in Korea for four years as military observers. Australia gained political and security benefits, the most important being the signing of the ANZUS Treaty with the United States and New Zealand.


Canada sent 29,791 troops to the war, with 7,000 more remaining to supervise the ceasefire until the end of 1955. Of these 1,558 became casualties, including 516 deaths, most of them through combat.[2] Canada’s participation included a brigade of troops, eight naval vessels, and 22 pilots for U.S. jet squadrons.

The first Canadian aid to the UN forces came from the Royal Canadian Navy. On July 12, 1950, three Canadian destroyers, HMCS Cayuga, HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Sioux, were sent to Korea to serve under United Nations Command. These ships supported the assault at Inchon and played an especially important role in the evacuation. Canadian ships also kept up the blockade on North Korean waters and protected coastal villages from attack.

The Canadian army also helped UN forces repulse and defend major positions from Chinese attack.

The Korean War was the last major conflict Canadian forces participated in until the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and the last major combat by ground troops until 2002 in Afghanistan. Canada played a minor role in the fighting in Cyprus in 1974 and in the Balkans at Medak Pocket in the 1990s.

The Canadian military was revitalized as a result of the Korean War. A planned changeover to U.S.-designed weapons equipment had been planned for the 1950s, but the emergency in Korea forced the use of war stocks of British-designed weapons from World War II. In the late 1950s, Canada adopted a variety of weapons of both European and U.S. design rather than proceeding with its planned Americanization.


Japan was politically disturbed both from the security threat to Japan because of the initial defeat of South Korea and from left-wing activities in support of North Korea and aiming to bring about a communist revolution in Japan. Additionally, as American occupation armies were dispatched to Korean peninsula, Japan's security became problematic. Under United States guidance, Japan established Reserved Police, later the Japan Self-Defense Forces (自衛隊). The signing of the Treaty of Peace with Japan (日本国との平和条約; popularly known as the Treaty of San Francisco) was also hastened to return Japan back into international communities. In the eyes of some American policy makers, the non-belligerency clause in the Constitution was already being considered a “mistake” by 1953.

Economically, Japan was able to benefit vastly from the war, and the Korean War greatly helped the rise of Japan's economy and its development into a world power. American requirements for supplies were organized through a Special Procurements system, which allowed for local purchases without the complex Pentagon procurement system. Over $3.5 billion was spent on Japanese companies, peaking at $809 million in 1953, and the zaibatsu went from being distrusted to being encouraged. Among those who thrived not only on orders from the military but also through American industrial experts, including W. Edwards Deming were Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo. Japanese manufacturing grew by 50% between March 1950 and 1951, and by 1952, pre-war standards of living were reached and output was twice the level of 1949. Becoming an independent country after the Treaty of San Francisco saved Japan from the burden of expense of the occupation forces.

During the war, 200,000 to 400,000 Koreans fled to Japan relying on relatives already living in Japan to provide them with shelters and necessary paperwork to live legally. They joined with those having fled from Jeju and formed the largest post-World War II Korean population group in Japan. While they initially had no strong political alignment, they were eventually split into factions supporting either North or South Korea with few holding on to the ideal of unified Korea.


According to U.S. estimates, about one million South Koreans were killed or went missing in the conflict, 85% of them civilians. According to figures published in the Soviet Union, around 1.13 million people, or 11.1% of the total population, were killed in North Korea (with the total casualties of some 2.5 million). More than 80% of the industrial and public facilities and transportation infrastructure, three-quarters of all government buildings, and half of all housing was destroyed.

Approximately 80,000 South Koreans were captured by the North during the war. After the armistice, about 9,000 of them were released to return to the South. The rest were forced into marriages with war widows and orphans and used as laborers to help build infrastructure projects. Although a few managed to escape over the years, the vast majority of the prisoners of war died in North Korea. North Korea has denied that it forcibly retained any prisoners from the war.[3]

The war left the peninsula divided, with a totalitarian communist state in the North and an authoritarian state in the South. Many Korean families were also divided by the war, most of whom have had no opportunity to contact or meet one another. The demilitarized zone remains one of the most heavily defended borders in the world.[4]

Initially, South Korea suffered economically in the 1950s and later transitioned to democracy with a rapidly-growing market economy, becoming one of the East Asian Tigers and reaching 11th place in its gross domestic product. Politically, South Korea had an authoritarian form of government until the 1987 establishment of the Sixth Republic. American troops continue to remain in Korea in case of any attack from North Korea as part of the still-functioning U.N. Command, which commands all allied military forces in South Korea (American Air Forces, Korea, the U.S. Eighth Army, and the entire South Korean military).

In North Korea, catastrophic weather led to a near collapse of the economy by the late 1990s. Politically, North Korea removed references to communism from its constitution and emphasized a system of Juche, which includes elements of self-reliance and national independence. No Russian or Chinese military forces remain in North Korea today.

People's Republic of China[]

The PRC had sent some of its best units to join the war. Although the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) had some initial success, losses (both on the battlefield as well as in material and casualties) exposed the PLA's painfully apparent weaknesses in firepower, air support, logistics, and communication. As a result the PLA was given a new mandate to modernize and professionalize itself. This ran counter to the PLA's previous mandate at the time that put dogma before expertize and modernization. The commander of the PLA's forces in Korea during the war, marshal Peng Dehuai, was made the government's first minister of defense to implement the changes and reforms such as modernization of weaponry, training and discipline, the rank system, and conscription.[5]:192

By entering and fighting in the Korean War, China achieved its original goal to keep North Korea from falling. The fact that Chinese forces held their own against United Nation forces in this war heralded that China was once again becoming a major world power. The war is generally seen by many Chinese as an honorable part of China’s history, as it was the first time in a century that a Chinese army was able to stand up to a Western army in a major conflict.

China successfully prevented the South Korean and U.S. militaries from establishing a presence on its Manchurian border. At that time, Manchuria, especially Liaoning — the province right across the Yalu River — was China’s most important industrial center. Protecting the Manchurian industrial zone was one of the major reasons China entered the war. Furthermore, by supporting the North Korean state, China obtained more than 300 km of strategic buffer zone from the U.S. which would avoid the military spending necessary to protect its Korean border for the next fifty years.

On the other hand, this meant China lost the opportunity to reunify Taiwan. Initially, the United States had abandoned the KMT and expected that Taiwan would fall to Beijing anyway, so the basic U.S. policy was to "wait and see" on the assumption that Taiwan’s reunification with China was inevitable. However, the North Korean invasion of South Korea, in the context of the Cold War, meant U.S. President Harry S. Truman intervened again and dispatched the Seventh Fleet to "neutralize" the Formosa Strait.[5]:311[6]

During the war, over an estimate number of 21,800 Chinese troops were taken prisoner by the Allies. After the war, they were given a chance to return to the People's Republic of China or to go to the Republic of China (Taiwan). Over two thirds of the entire group chose to go to Taiwan for the fears of government reprisal, consequently defecting to the Army of the Republic of China. The war also partly contributed to the decline of Sino-Soviet relations. Although the Chinese had their own reasons to enter the war, mentioned above, the view that the Soviets had used them as proxies was shared by the Western bloc. MacArthur was a notable exception, dissenting from this prevailing view in his “Old Soldiers Never Die” speech.[7] China had to use a Soviet loan, which had been originally intended to rebuild their destroyed economy, to pay for Soviet arms.

From official Chinese sources, PVA Korean War casualty figures break down as follows: 114,000 killed in action; 380,000 total wounded in action; 21,000 died of wounds; 13,000 died of sickness; and 21,400 POW.[8] Mao Zedong’s only healthy son, Mao Anying, was also killed as a PVA officer during the war (he was forced to fight in the war by his father). Another Chinese historian (Liang Jingdun) however, estimates that 700,000 Chinese perished during the war.[9]

Republic of China[]

Korea played an important role in sustaining the ROC's economic stability. Until the war in Korea, the U.S. had largely abandoned the Nationalist government of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, whose forces had retreated to Taiwan after their defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong's Communists in the Chinese Civil War. Indeed the U.S. had little involvement in that conflict, beyond supplying surplus material to the Nationalists. However, the PRC's involvement in the Korean War rendered any U.S. policy that would have allowed Taiwan to fall under PRC control untenable. This saw the abandonment of the "let the dust settle policy" by America with regards to Taiwan prior to the war. Truman’s decision to send American warships to the Formosa Strait as well as an increase in aid in order to deter the PRC from making any attempt to invade Taiwan, after doing nothing to prevent the Nationalist's mainland defeat in the first place, is evidence of this.[5]:311

Also, the anti-communist atmosphere in the West in response to the Korean War contributed to the unwillingness to diplomatically recognize the People’s Republic of China until the 1970s. In that time, the Republic of China (ROC) was recognized by the U.S. as 'the' legitimate Chinese government, and that in turn allowed Taiwan to develop politically, militarily, and economically. The result has been that, today, any effort by the PRC to invade the island, or otherwise coerce the people there into an arrangement of political unity with the Communist controlled mainland, would be difficult at best to accomplish, and may be impossible without a great deal of bloodshed. While economic ties between the PRC and ROC have grown immensely since the 1990s, thus achieving a degree of interdependency that would have been unimaginable even twenty years ago, political diplomacy between the ROC and mainland China remains strained, and successive governments in Taiwan have consistently, if sometimes obliquely, signaled their determination to remain independent for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, the defectors arrived in Taiwan on January 23, 1954, and were immediately celebrated as “Anti-Communist volunteers”. The ROC government soon declared January 23 as World Freedom Day in their honor.[10][11]

Soviet Union[]

The war was a political disaster for the Soviet Union. Its central objective, the unification of the Korean peninsula under the Kim Il-Sung regime, was not achieved. Boundaries of both parts of Korea remained practically unchanged. Furthermore, relations with communist ally China were seriously and permanently spoiled, leading to the Sino-Soviet split that lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The war, meanwhile, united the countries within the capitalist bloc: the Korean War accelerated the conclusion of a peace agreement between the U.S. and Japan, the warming of West Germany’s relations with other western countries, creation of military and political blocs ANZUS (1951) and SEATO (1954). However, because of the war, the authority of the Soviet State grew, which showed in its readiness to interfere in developing countries of the Third World, many of which after the Korean war went down the socialist path of development, after selecting the Soviet Union as their patron.

It is generally assumed that the war was a heavy burden on the national economy of the Soviet Union, which was still suffering from the effects of World War II. Expenditures for defense certainly grew more sharply than they otherwise would have. However, it has been claimed that in fact much of the payment for the Soviet contribution to the war effort was made by China (which perhaps goes some way towards explaining the eventual split between the two countries). Also, some historians believe, instead of an obvious political disaster, the war actually may have served to preserve the military power of the Soviet Union, while western forces became relatively broken.[citation needed]

Despite the expenses and regardless of who paid them, it must also be said that the Korean War provided approximately thirty thousand Soviet military personnel valuable experience in waging local wars. The conflict also allowed the Soviets the opportunity to test several new forms of armament, in particular the MiG-15 combat aircraft. Furthermore, numerous models of American military equipment were captured, which made it possible for Soviet engineers and scientists to reverse engineer American technology, and use what they learned for the development of new forms of their own armaments. According to declassified Soviet documents released after the fall of the USSR, Stalin himself may have been the main obstacle for peace in Korea specifically because of the intelligence gathered on the American war machine, and the testing of new Soviet military equipment during the conflict.[12]


During World War II, Turkey maintained a neutral stance. It was decided by the Allies at the Second Cairo Conference that maintaining Turkey’s neutrality would serve their interests, by blocking the Axis from reaching the strategic oil reserves of the Middle East. Unfortunately, and although Turkey eventually declared war on the Axis Powers in 1945, this decision had the side-effect of leaving the country somewhat isolated in the diplomatic arena after the war. By the beginning of the 1950s, Turkey was under pressure from the Soviet Union on territorial issues, particularly regarding the control of the Turkish Straits. Looking for an ally against the Soviets, Turkey sought to join the NATO alliance, and the Korean War was viewed as an opportunity to provide the West a demonstration of Turkey's good faith.

Turkey was one of the larger participants in the U.N. alliance, committing nearly 5,500 troops. The Turkish Brigade, which operated under the U.S. 25th Infantry Division, assisted in protecting the supply lines of U.N. forces which advanced towards North Korea. However, it was the Battles of Kunu-ri and Kumyanjangni that earned the Turkish Brigade a reputation and the praise of U.N. forces.[13] Because of their heroic actions and sacrifice in these battles (721 KIA, 168 MIA, and 2111 WIA),[13] a monument was created in Seoul in the memory of the Turkish soldiers who fought in Korea.[citation needed]

Yet Turkey's involvement in the Korean War was a controversial topic in Turkey at the time, and continues to be so today. First, while sending troops to Korea earned Turkey the respect of the West, it was also the beginning of more overt clashes with the Eastern Bloc. Second, the Prime Minister of Turkey was criticized for sending troops without asking the parliament first. Last, while Turkey’s performance in the Korean War is considered by many citizens as one of the most noble episodes of the country’s recent history, some also believe that sending the country’s soldiers to die for the interests of the “imperialist powers” was one of the most misguided foreign policy decisions ever made by the Turkish Republic.

Nevertheless, Turkey's entrance into the war as part of the U.N. command did indeed have a great impact on earning a place in NATO. Thus, Turkey can be considered a country which benefited from the Korean War.

United Kingdom[]

United States[]

The first American war dead were brought home aboard the USNS Randall, shown here departing Yokohama on March 23, 1953.

Accordingly, after the war, the American defense budget was boosted to $50 billion, the Army was doubled in size, as was the number of Air Groups, and they were deployed outside American territory in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia.

The state of national emergency declared at the outset of the war by President Truman in December 1950 during which the penalties under numerous federal statutes were automatically escalated. Although the emergency has long since abated, the federal courts have continued to enforce those penalties into the 21st century for acts that occurred while the emergency was at its height.[14]

The beginning of racial integration efforts in the U.S. military began during the Korean War, where African Americans fought in integrated units for the first time. President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, calling on the armed forces to provide equal treatment and opportunity for black servicemen. The extent to which Truman’s 1948 orders were carried out varied among the various branches of the military, with segregated units still in deployment at the start of the war, and eventually being integrated towards the end of the war. The last large segregated operational unit was the U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment which was deactivated on October 1, 1951.

There has been some confusion over the previously reported number of 54,589 Korean War deaths.[citation needed] In 1993, this number was divided by the Defense Department into 33,686 battle deaths, 2,830 non-battle deaths, and 17,730 deaths of Defense Department personnel outside the Korean theatre.[15] There were also 8,142 U.S. personnel listed as Missing In Action (MIA) during the war. U.S. casualties in the war are fewer than in the Vietnam War, but they occurred over three years as opposed to 15 years (1960 to 1975) in Vietnam. However, advances in medical services such as the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and the use of rapid transport of the wounded to them such as with helicopters enabled the death rate for U.N. forces to be much lower than in previous wars.

For service during the Korean War, the U.S. military issued the Korean Service Medal. However, many still-living Korean War veterans claim that their country tends to neglect the remembrance of this war. With more overt displays made for the Vietnam War, World War I, World War II and the Gulf Wars, the Korean War has come to be dubbed by some as the “Forgotten war” or the “Unknown War.” As a partial remedy, the Korean War Veterans Memorial was built in Washington, D.C. and dedicated to veterans of the war on July 27, 1995.

The U.S. still maintains a heavy military presence in Korea, as part of the effort to uphold the armistice between South and North Korea. A special service decoration, known as the Korea Defense Service Medal, is authorized for U.S. service members who today serve a tour of duty in Korea.

Western Europe[]

The outbreak of the war convinced Western leaders of the growing threat of international communism. The United States began to encourage Western European countries, including West Germany, to contribute to their own defense, though this was perceived as a threat by its neighbors, especially France. As the war continued, however, opposition to rearmament lessened and China’s entry in the war caused France to revise its position towards German rearmament. To contain the situation French officials proposed the creation of the European Defence Community (EDC), a supranational organisation, under the leadership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The end of the war reduced the perceived communist threat, and thus reduced the necessity of such an organisation. The French Parliament postponed the ratification of the EDC Treaty indefinitely. This rejection in the French Parliament was caused by Gaullist fears that the creation of the EDC threatened France’s national sovereignty. The EDC was not ratified, and the initiative collapsed in August 1955.

Commemoration in 2010[]

At the commemoration of the Korean War on June 25, 2010, Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon paid a tribute to the soldiers from 22 countries who fought in the Korean War that started 60 years before, saying they had helped turn destruction in his native Republic of Korea into democracy and prosperity. “Out of rubble came an economic power. Out of tragedy emerged a free democratic society” [16]

Ban Ki-moon himself was aged six years when the war broke out and was forced to flee his home with his grandparents until UN forces came to assist.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Korean War 1950–53". Australian War Memorial
  2. "Canadians in Korea, 1950–1953"., Accessed 23 June 2006.
  3. Herskovitz, Jon, and Christine Kim, ([Reuters]), "War endless for South Korean POWs in North", Japan Times, April 6, 2010, p. 4.
  4. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (dmz) Most Heavily Fortified Border On The Planet. By: Korea Tourism. accessed 4th December 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 [|Dreyer, June Teufel] (2000). China's Political System: Modernization and Tradition, 3rd Edition. London, Great Britain: Macmillan. p. 347. ISBN 0-333-91287-X. 
  6. Stanford University: Taiwanese Cultural Society – 歷史 History, accessed 19 October 2010
  7. "American Experience . MacArthur . MacArthur's Speeches: "Old Soldiers Never Die..."". PBS. 1951-04-19. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  8. "Korean War: In the View of Cost-effectiveness". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  10. Monique Chu, NGO celebrates World Freedom Day, Taipei Times, February 3, 2002
  11. [1][dead link]
  12. Lashmar, Paul, "Stalin's 'Hot' War,"
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Turkish Brigade". Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  14. Espinoza-Castro v. I.N.S., 242 F.3d 1181, 1186 (9th Cir. 2001)
  15. Kathleen T. Rhem, Korean War Death Stats Highlight Modern DoD Safety Record, June 8, 2000
  16. "Secretary-General Remarks to Korean War Anniversary Event"

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