Korean War

The Korean War was a major civil war on the Korean peninsula soon after World War II (see Pacific War). It became a significant engagement for both the United States (leading the United Nations forces) and the People's Republic of China. The resulting stalemate divided the country and a people by creating the nations of North Korea and South Korea.


After Japan's defeat at the end of World War II, the Korean nation was liberated but soon became divided by the ideological struggle starting the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Kim Il-sung established a communist regime with the support of the Soviet Union in the North, while Syngman Rhee established a capitalist regime with the support of the United States in the South. The North and South governments both claimed authority over the entire peninsula, and antagonism from both sides eventually led to an invasion of the Southern part by the North.

The United States military returned to support the South Korean forces, but the prospect of American troops on the Chinese border led to a counter invasion by massive Chinese reinforcements. The war lasted three years and saw the capital Seoul change hands no less than 4 times.

The result was a stalemate and the country was cleanly cut in half, with the communist North and capitalist South developing into the two extremely different nations they are today. Although there has been relatively little violence since the armistice, there has been very little progress toward concluding a peace treaty in the decades since.


Korea is rather unique in having an officially active war zone that you are able to visit. The Demilitarized Zone has been on edge for over 50 years and shows no sign of ending. Although the two Koreas remain officially at war with each other, and there have been military skirmishes (and deaths) over the years, there has been nothing resulting in a resumption of open warfare.


  • 1 Dandong, in Northeast China, is right on the Yalu River which forms the border with North Korea. The Chinese half of the Yalu River Bridge, bombed during the war and never restored to its original state again, is intact and open for pedestrians. The city is also home to the Memorial of the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea, a large museum offering a Chinese perspective on the history of the Korean war.

North Korea[edit]

  • 2 Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (조국해방전쟁승리기념관) (Pyongyang). Large statues and captured US planes, tanks, and other weapons are in front of the main building. The museum contains dioramas and historical artefacts from the war, paintings of the leaders, and serves as a memorial to national war heroes. Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum (Q11588512) on Wikidata Victorious War Museum on Wikipedia
  • 3 Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities (신천박물관) (Sinchon). Sinchon is the site of a massacre of civilians which is blamed on the Americans by the North Korean government (Historians outside North Korea believe the massacre was propagated by both pro- and anti-communist vigilantes at the time). Expect a fairly one-sided view of history. Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities (Q2157562) on Wikidata Sinchon_Museum_of_American_War_Atrocities on Wikipedia

Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)[edit]

  • The 4 Panmunjom peace village, where negotiations carry on to the present day.
  • The 5 Imjin River, a tributary of the Han River, crosses the Demilitarized Zone. Just south of the river lies the Gloucester Valley Battle Monument, which stands on the site of the battlegrounds of Hill 235.

South Korea[edit]

  • 6 United Nations Memorial Cemetery (재한유엔기념공원) (Central Busan). The only official United Nations cemetery in the world, it serves to honor the memory of soldiers from 16 nations who fought and died for the freedom of South Korea. This location is very far away from the DMZ on the south coast of the nation. Free. United Nations Memorial Cemetery (Q15465499) on Wikidata United Nations Memorial Cemetery on Wikipedia
  • 7 The War Memorial of Korea (전쟁기념관) (Yongsan, Seoul). The original headquarters of the South Korean infantry, this is now a large museum dedicated to the Korean War over 8 exhibits.
  • 8 Incheon. The largest amphibious landing since World War II, which turned the tide of battle in 1950 when UN forces commanded by Douglas MacArthur led an eastern assault to retake Seoul therefore by cutting off supplies for the Korean People's Army. Incheon (Q20934) on Wikidata Incheon on Wikipedia
  • 9 Jeju April 3rd Peace Park (제주 4·3 평화공원) (Jeju City). This museum is about the tragic incident of 3 April 1948. A series of events on Jeju Island during the Korean War resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30,000 islanders. April 3 Jeju Peace Park (Q12616407) on Wikidata Jeju 4.3 Peace Park on Wikipedia
  • 10 Nogunri Peace Memorial Park (노근리평화공원) (Yeongdong County). Park commemorating the Nogunri Massacre. Includes a memorial tower and a museum.

United States[edit]

  • 11 Korean War Veterans Memorial (National Mall, Washington D.C.). This memorial is a little hidden in the woods, and perhaps that's appropriate for the memorial to the one major war of the twentieth century (in which over 600,000 allied troops died) that did not leave such a huge impression in the American mind—the Forgotten War. It's easily one of the most powerful in Washington D.C., though. The focus of the monument is the nineteen very realistic steel statues of American soldiers moving across the landscape (nineteen, because they total 38—referring to the 38th parallel—when reflected in the water). The lighting at night leaves an especially disconcerting, ghostly impression. The best time to visit might be after a winter snow storm, which will help you remember the worst hardship of the war—the snowy marches through the cruel Siberian winds. Korean War Veterans Memorial (Q708847) on Wikidata Korean War Veterans Memorial on Wikipedia

See also[edit]

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