In the history of international conflict, the Korean War is one of many wars of decolonization and postcolonial political sequence that swept away four centuries of European and Japanese imperialism. With all the World War II participants except the United States worn out by their wartime losses, the client states of the Middle East and the colonies of Asia and Africa faced a record opportunity to declare their independent existence. “Declaring” often proved easy compared to the challenge of “being” a new nation, but rational policies and reforms seldom drove the “freedom fighters” of the 1940s and 1950s. Like generations of rebels before them, the leaders of “the wars of national liberation” proved more proficient at taking power than governing. On June 25, 1950, troops from the north occupied the south, sparking the Korean War. Under the United Nations flag, American troops led allied forces in reply to the invasion. With the North Korean army driven all the way to its border with China, the Chinese army entered the clash. The war surged back and forth across the peninsula, upsetting the land and people. An estimated two million Koreans died, one million Chinese, nearly 37,000 Americans, and approximately 1,200 other UN-related troops were also killed.
The United States and North Korea entered into a ceasefire agreement in July 1953, successfully stopping the war. However, with no formal peace treaty ever signed, North and South Korea are theoretically still at war. The war left devastation throughout the whole of the peninsula. Both sides experienced large casualties, with hundreds of thousands wounded or maimed, and many orphaned or widowed. With no agricultural or industrial infrastructure standing, both economies were in disorder.
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