If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:16:10
AP.USH:
KC‑8.1.I.B.i (KC)
,
Unit 8: Learning Objective B
,
WOR (Theme)

Video transcript

before we go into the actual conflict of the Korean War let's try to get a sense of the the historical environment going into the Korean War so if you go all the way back to the late 1800s Early 1900s the Korean Peninsula what we now consider both North and South Korea they were occupied by the Japanese military and then in 1910 in 1910 the the Korean Peninsula is formally annexed into the Japanese Empire so the Japanese are essentially this colonial this imperialist power here and they stay in power in the Korean Peninsula all the way until the end of World War two and it's probably worth saying here it's probably worth making doing a bunch of videos here that the the Japanese occupation was not a pleasant occupation for the Korean people they subjugated the Korean people in multiple ways forced labor forced prostitution of they tried to kind of eradicate the Korean language in the Korean culture so this was not in any way a pleasant occupation they weren't pleasant imperialists but you fast-forward all the way to 1945 we know that Japan loses World War two and the major two victors on the Allied side that are kind of acting in this part of the world are the United States and the Soviet Union and so 1945 you have the Soviets coming from above you have the Soviets coming from above that's the Soviets coming from above and eventually you have the Americans coming from below they occupy Japan first so this is the USA and they essentially remember at this point even though this is kind of the beginning of the Cold War at this point in World War two the United States and the Soviet Union are allies and so United States kind of tells the Soviet Union hey why don't we just stop at the 38th parallel why don't we just stop at the 38th parallel in the United States actually didn't even think that the Soviets would stop there but they actually did and from the Soviets point of view it's believed that they stopped there because the United States didn't get there at the same time so there was no one to stop them from going further south but it's believed that the Soviets wanted to uphold their side of the agreement so that they could get you know so that they would be a trusted party in the negotiations in Europe and maybe get more in Europe which is what the Soviets maybe cared about more so what happens after World War two is that the north what's now North Korea essentially becomes under the influence of the Soviets everything below the 38th parallel becomes under the influence of the United States the Soviets essentially install this gentleman right over here to lead North Korea Kim Milson or the part of Korea that is north of the 38th parallel at this point this was just kind of viewed as a point where the Soviets the United States should kind of meet up where they would have to stop it wasn't meant to be an actual partition of the country but as we'll see it actually becomes a partition of the country but the Soviets install Kim il-sung he sets up a communist essentially a communist dictator dictatorship in the north and this is the current leader of North Korea's dad this is Kim Jong Il's dad so he gets installed in the north and in the south if you fast forward a little bit to 1948 there is an attempt at elections but those attend those elections are seriously rigged and this gentleman Sigmund recover and although he might look like a nice Pleasant man he was actually fairly ruthless and he is you know unanimously considered a strong man and on both sides of this once again this is one of those situations where you really can't call either of these guys good guys because both of them are have have done some pretty nasty nasty things to each other to two soldiers on either side and and to innocent civilians but syngman rhee comes to power in the south and his I guess most attractive feature to the Americans is that he is not is that he is not a communist and so you have this situation setting up communist north above 30th parallel non-communist South controlled by Sigmund Rhee supported by the United States the other thing that happens is that the Soviets help build up the North Korean military the United States is not as encouraging of a strong South Korean military so you start having an imbalance between the military of the north and the south and obviously either one of these parties Kim il-sung wants to unite Korea under his rule under his communist rule syngman rhee wants to wants to unite Korea under his authoritarian rule so they're both kind of sending setting up troops they're both setting up troops along the border and this whole time this whole time you have skirmishes going on across the border and just to give you a context you're probably saying wait Korea's you know right next to China what was going on there and if you go to China you in 1949 the Communists come to power there was a civil war leading up to that between the Communists led by Mao say Tung and the Nationalists led by Chiang kai-shek Mao Zedong comes to power he wants to support the the Communists in North Korea especially because some of those communists in North Korea actually helped helped fight the helped fight on the Communist side during the Chinese Civil War so this is an important factor right here Mao Zedong is interested in spreading communism he doesn't like the Americans in South Korea and he feels some type of allegiance to the Communists in North Korea so now you fast forward to June 25th 1950 and in the North you have a major embed that there's a lot the north at the North Korean army it's not called North Korea at this point they both considers themselves Korea competing I guess governments of Korea the the army in the north is disproportionately stronger than the south and so they invade they view this as their chance at unifying the peninsula and essentially they're able to almost just kind of storm through the Korean Peninsula immediately when that happens the UN and especially the United States then this is because at this point the Soviet Union was boycotting the Security Council so they couldn't even veto it the UN immediately starts supplying naval and air support for the South Koreans but regard the disparity is so big that the North Koreans are able to just keep marching keep marching forward within a few days literally by July 1st the United States descends decides to commit ground forces because we had substantial ground forces in Japan which isn't that far away just to give you a global perspective this is the Korean Peninsula right here and this is Japan and I could have probably found a bigger picture of that but America had military forces in Japan that they could send and so the Americans enter the force in a enter the battle in a major way very early on but that doesn't stop the North Koreans for some time so the North Koreans get all the way they're able to occupy all of the Korean Peninsula except for kind of the north eastern corner so they get they get around this far and so over here you have the city of Pusan and this is called the Pusan Perimeter Pusan Perimeter and it's at the Pusan Perimeter that you have a little bit of a of a the United States and Korean forces combined are able to halt the North Koreans and you have a kind of a slight stalemate for a couple of months here but that while that stalemate is happening the United States is able to and especially the UN but it's mainly the United States is able to build up significant troops within within the Pusan Perimeter but even more and at this point and at this point the United States and the UN forces go under the control of Douglas MacArthur General Douglas MacArthur who's a bit of an interesting character and till this point he was able to kind of rule Japan with an iron fist he's hugely popular war hero in America and the current President Truman kind of has little trouble controlling MacArthur especially during the Korean War and we'll see that MacArthur really overstepped his bounds during the course of this war now at this point you have the South Koreans and the Americans kind of cornered out down here inside the Pusan Perimeter it looks like North Korea's on the verge of victory but the u.s. is able to build forces and the Korean War really just starts becoming into a game of risk I don't know if you've ever played the game of Risk but whenever it's somebody's turn they're able to spread their forces but then they get spread thin and then the other side is able to come back and we'll see is the rest of the Korean War is essentially a back and forth between the Communists in the north supported by the Chinese although the Chinese aren't in the war officially just yet and then the Americans in the south and the first really smart thing that MacArthur does is he says look instead of trying to fight our way through the Korean forces that are over here instead of trying to fight our way through all of these Korean forces that are over here why don't we just kind of outflank them and why don't we use our naval our Navy to do an amphibious landing of an army at Incheon so in September 15th while you have kind of the stalemate over here the United States they have an amphibious landing so they send troops from all of these places they have an infamous landing at Inchon which is near Seoul so they land right over they land at Incheon which is roughly over there I'm not super accurate here and what's interesting about that is in any battle all of these Korean troops right here they have supply chains they have to get food and supplies and fresh troops from up here and so the further in you go into enemy territory the more spread out your troops get and the strategies here is instead of fighting through this what if we outflank them and are able to land a significant force right here and immediately disrupt the supply lines of the North Koreans and that's exactly that's essentially what the Americans did and it was successful so MacArthur looks like a genius over here and he's able to retake Seoul he's able to take the what's kind of the North Korean capital at this point Pyongyang and you have the Americans marching north so all of a sudden it started off with the North Koreans being able to roll down and now all of a sudden the Americans and the South Koreans are able to roll up and they're feeling pretty good about themselves and the whole time Truman's trying to keep MacArthur under check MacArthur's excited he's ultra confident he thinks that the the troops are going to be home by Christmas he doesn't think China is serious about about supporting North Koreans and even more he almost it seems like wants to pick a fight with China because he wants to maybe maybe eliminate communism in China as well he view'd is you know he's kind of on this mission to eliminate communism from all of Asia so Truman is saying limited war don't cross the Yalu River and and and be careful don't don't you know don't start attacking Chinese up here and enrage them and and you're going to have them you know enter the war MacArthur is it doesn't take that too seriously and he also says look I have to start bombing bombs across the Yalu River so that the Chinese won't be able to send won't be able to send troops and supplies to aid the North Koreans so he's marching up all confident going up against the Yalu River and this whole time the Chinese under Mao Satan under Mao Satan are sending a pretty substantial army and they're able to do it secretly they're able to march at night and they even have these policies where if any surveillance planes go overhead all of the Chinese soldiers have to freeze and if they don't freeze someone else is allowed to shoot them so everyone wants to freeze so that no one can really see them from above so it's this really kind of a secret buildup of troops across the Yalu River and this whole time MacArthur is just ultra ultra confident about what's happening over here but then you fast forward until the end of October the Americans think that they're on the verge of winning the Korean War and all of a sudden you have the Chinese cross the Yellow River and the Americans didn't even know that the Chinese had major forces ready to cross so now you have the and once again it's just like a game of Risk so now you have the Chinese cross they catch the Americans unsuspected they engage a few times the Americans weren't sure if the Chinese were serious so they keep re engaging them but then it becomes clear yes the Chinese are serious the Chinese are serious and essentially the Chinese are able to push back the Americans and the South Koreans all the way back so that they're able to recapture Seoul but once again like any game of Risk now the Chinese are spread thin the the Americans and the South Koreans and all the you other UN forces although the UN forces are mainly the Americans are able to regroup are able to regroup and then in march so Seoul has changed and four times so in march they're able to retake Seoul again they're able to retake Seoul again and at this point MacArthur you know ultra confident he's telling the Chinese you've essentially lost he's even trying to get permissions to use nuclear weapons against the Chinese he to some degree he doesn't even think he needs the permission of Truman to stop it sounds like he's eager to push the Chinese further back even though they kind of surprised him the first go-around so Truman has enough of this of this wildcard guy who you know thinks that he can call the shots and use nuclear weapons if he wants to willy-nilly and so Truman finally dismisses MacArthur in April in April of 1951 and at this point you start having a stalemate you have you start having a stalemate near the 38th parallel so that you start having a stalemate across this border right over there and both sides think the end of the war is imminent they're like okay we're back to where we both began we should both stop here but the negotiations unfortunately took over two years and there's a lot of I guess back and forth about what to do with prisoners of war and all of the rest but it finally took two years so that in July 20 27 1953 you have an armistice signed between the two parties and I want to make it clear and our mistress that an armistice agreement it is not a peace treaty it's not saying that we both agree that this is the border of our two new countries and that we are now at peace with each other all an armistice means is that we're going to stop fighting it is not a formal end to the war so in theory in theory North and South Korea even to this day are in a state of war and you know to this day I'm recording this video in 2011 maybe if you view this in the future hopefully they won't be in a official state of war but they're an official state of war under an armistice they've just agreed they've just agreed to stop fighting so all in all you have this hugely bloody battle with all of these atrocities going on in both sides you know syngman rhee when he was the first time when the North Korean troops were rolling in to South Korea he essentially beforehand he was he was kind of imprisoning a bunch of people who he suspected to be communists and when he said when I'm talking about people I'm talkin bout whole families sometimes and when he was recruiting he essentially allowed the massacre of a huge number of people who are just suspected of being communists and you know these weren't just military men these were women these were children these were entire families so he's guilty of that and Kim il-sung just as guilty when when the North Korean soldiers infiltrated the South Korea and Seoul they committed atrocities killing civil servants killing any of the kind of established intellectuals in the area so on both sides this hugely horrific war and just to get a sense of what was happening you know Korea isn't a huge country but you have within Korea the civilian debts 1.5 to 3 million civilian debts and the consensus is at 2 million and you know this tells you how ugly war is is that you can't even estimate how many people die to the nearest you know 500,000 people you just don't know what happened but to million people died in a country that's not too big you have 30 you know all in all you have about 40,000 American soldiers dying China China losses on the order of depending on the estimates 400,000 soldiers I mean the estimates are all over the place North Korea losses on the order same magnitude of soldiers South Korea losses you know several hundred thousands of soldiers so you have this hugely bloody battle this hugely bloody war I should say that really ends with a outcome that wasn't so different from where it started