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Korean Partition: How did it happen .......... ? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2010-11-29 22:50:16 |Display all floors
Soviet-American Pursuit of Reunification, 1945-1948

It became fashionable more than a decade ago for scholars to portray the Korean War as a civil conflict, rejecting the traditional interpretation of the war as an example of Soviet-inspired, external aggression.[1]

But the recent release of previously classified Soviet and Chinese documents has brought an abrupt end to this emerging consensus. This has made possible renewed emphasis on international factors in reexaminations of the Korean War.

Kathryn Weathersby signaled that this shift was well underway in 1993 when she concluded that the war's origins "lie primarily with the division of Korea in 1945 and the polarization of Korean politics that resulted from the policies of the two occupying powers.

The Soviet Union played a key role in the outbreak of the war, but it was as facilitator, not as originator."[2] This essay reviews and compares traditional and revisionist perspectives on the origins of the Korean War.

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The Historical Debate

President Harry S. Truman provided the touchstone for the debate surrounding the reasons for the Korean War just two days after the start of hostilities.[3] On 27 June 1950, he told the American people that North Korea's attack on South Korea showed that world "communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war."[4]

This assessment reflected Truman's firm belief that North Korea was a puppet of the Soviet Union. Acting on instructions from Moscow, Kim Il-sung had sent troops southward as part of the Soviet plan for global conquest. In his memoirs, Truman equated Joseph Stalin's actions with Adolf Hitler's in the 1930s, arguing that military intervention to defend the Republic of Korea (ROK) was essential because appeasement had not prevented but ensured the outbreak of World War II.[5]

Top Administration officials, as well as the general public, fully shared these assumptions. This traditional interpretation provided the analytical foundation for insider accounts of the origins of the Korean War.[6]

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Surprisingly, some observers challenged Truman's assessment even before the Korean War ended on 27 July 1953. For example, Wilbur Hitchcock published an article in 1951 asserting that Kim Il-sung, not Stalin, "pulled the switch" initiating the Korean conflict. He emphasized in particular the Soviet boycott of the Security Council that prevented Moscow from vetoing resolutions authorizing UN military action to defend the ROK.

In addition, North Korea's attack sparked a number of unwelcome developments for the Soviet Union, including a massive US military buildup, rearmament of West Germany, and the strengthening of NATO. Thus, according to Hitchcock, Kim Il-sung "jumped the gun" and attacked the ROK before the Soviets were ready for the invasion. I. F. Stone, in contrast to Hitchcock, focused his 1952 study of the Korean War on South Korea's responsibility for the outbreak of hostilities.

ROK President Syngman Rhee was provocative, Stone contends, instigating many border clashes at the 38th parallel before 25 June 1950. In response to North Korean retaliation, Rhee portrayed the orderly retreat of his forces as a military debacle, thereby persuading Truman to commit troops.

General Douglas MacArthur, John Foster Dulles, and Chiang Kai-shek were participants in this conspiracy to reverse the process of US military disengagement from East Asia after World War II.[7]

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Neither the Hitchcock nor Stone interpretation had won many adherents as the fighting in Korea ended. Thereafter, the Truman assessment prevailed for a decade largely because Soviet-American relations remained acrimonious. Early studies of the Korean War blamed the United States for the North Korean attack, invariably charging that the Truman Administration had abandoned South Korea publicly and thus gave Kim Il-sung a green light to launch his invasion.

For proof, these writers pointed to Secretary of State Dean Acheson's National Press Club speech excluding the ROK from the US "defensive perimeter," congressional rejection of the Korean aid bill, Senator Tom Connally's public prediction that Soviet or Chinese communist conquest of all Korea was inevitable, and limits on the military capabilities of South Korea.[8]

This traditional analytical approach survived into the 1960s;[9] some recent detailed studies still reflect this viewpoint.[10]

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Consensus regarding the reasons for the Korean War brought a predictable shift toward the investigation of other issues. If the United States had decided to abandon South Korea before 25 June 1950, it begged the question of why Truman would reverse the policy and order US military intervention.

Glenn D. Paige and Ernest R. May provided answers to this riddle in two studies that each stressed international factors to explain American behavior. The United States, they wrote, had to act against Soviet-inspired aggression or risk irreparable damage to American credibility and prestige.[11] Other writers evaluated and offered judgments on the way that the United States conducted the war following Truman's commitment of ground troops. These studies extolling the virtues of fighting limited war in a nuclear age were elaborations of the traditional interpretation.

While critical of the UN offensive across the 38th parallel because this brought Chinese military intervention, these writers applauded the Truman Administration for rejecting MacArthur's proposals for widening the war.[12]

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Post time 2010-11-29 23:00:20 |Display all floors
Originally posted by expatter at 2010-11-29 22:52
President Harry S. Truman provided the touchstone for the debate surrounding the reasons for the Korean War just two days after the start of hostilities.[3] On 27 June 1950, he told the American pe ...


Kim asked Stalin for allowance to attack SK.First 1949,when Stalin said no because he was busy with the Berlin crisis, and then 1950 when he gave his okay.  So NK was not a Soviet puppet? It was not "just" Trueman's firm belief.
Patria est ubicunque bene/Obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit

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Meanwhile, a New Left revisionist interpretation had emerged to challenge the traditional view that assigned responsibility to the Soviet Union for starting the Cold War. According to these writers, the United States had used its superior economic power and an atomic monopoly in an effort to establish global political dominance in the postwar era. Ironically, Korea at first escaped reinterpretation at the hands of the revisionists.

For example, Richard J. Barnet accepted the traditional view that North Korea initiated the Korean War, although he condemned the United States for intervening to save Rhee's dictatorial regime. Denna Frank Fleming advanced a New Left assessment of Korea in his two-volume study of the Cold War, but few considered his account credible.[13] US involvement in Vietnam would transform "left revisionism" into both a plausible and legitimate explanation for US foreign policy, not only with regard to Korea, but just about every other major event in US history.

Thus, Joyce and Gabriel Kolko could charge boldly that South Korea struck first in June 1950 and North Korea's invasion was an act of self-defense. Karunakar Gupta added the details of how the ROK's army ignited the Korean War with an assault on Haeju, a North Korean city on the Ongjin peninsula.[14]

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