American troops arrive in Korea to partition the country

U.S. troops land in Korea to begin their postwar occupation of the southern part of that nation, almost exactly one month after Soviet troops had entered northern Korea to begin their own occupation. Although the U.S. and Soviet occupations were supposed to be temporary, the division of Korea quickly became permanent.

Korea had been a Japanese possession since the early 20th century. During World War II, the allies–the United States, Soviet Union, China and Great Britain–made a somewhat hazy agreement that Korea should become an independent country following the war. As the war progressed, U.S. officials began to press the Soviets to enter the war against Japan. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin pledged that his nation would declare war on Japan exactly three months after Nazi Germany was defeated. A few months later, at the Potsdam Conference in July and August 1945, it was agreed that Soviet troops would occupy the northern portion of Korea, while American forces would take a similar action in southern Korea in order to secure the area and liberate it from Japanese control. The occupations would be temporary, and Korea would eventually decide its own political future, though no date was set for the end of the U.S. and Soviet occupations. On August 8, the Soviets declared war on Japan. On August 9, Soviet forces invaded northern Korea. A few days later, Japan surrendered. Keeping to their part of the bargain, U.S. forces entered southern Korea on September 8, 1945.

Over the next few years, the situation in Korea steadily worsened. A civil war between communist and nationalist forces in southern Korea resulted in thousands of people killed and wounded. The Soviets steadfastly refused to consider any plans for the reunification of Korea. The United States reacted by setting up a government in South Korea, headed by Syngman Rhee. The Soviets established a communist regime in North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Il-Sung. In 1948, the United States again offered to hold national elections, but the Soviets refused the offer. Elections were held in South Korea, and Rhee’s government received a popular mandate. The Soviets refused to recognize Rhee’s government, though, and insisted that Kim Il-Sung was the true leader of all Korea.

Having secured the establishment of a communist government in North Korea, Soviet troops withdrew in 1948; and U.S. troops in South Korea followed suit in 1949. In 1950, the North Koreans attempted to reunite the nation by force and launched a massive military assault on South Korea. The United States quickly came to the aid of South Korea, beginning a three-year involvement in the bloody and frustrating Korean War. Korea remains a divided nation today, and the North Korean regime is one of the few remaining communist governments left in the world.

READ MORE: The Korean War Hasn't Officially Ended. One Reason: POWs

Today in History: US Sends Troops to Korea (1950)

Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union began even before the end of the Second World War. The Cold War is one of the oddest periods of time to study in history, if for no other reason than both the US and the USSR fought in several proxy wars instead of going to war against each other (which is, of course, a good thing, given both countries ability to destroy the planet with nuclear weapons).

The peninsula of Korea was the location of one of those proxy wars. Up until the end of World War II, Korea was ruled by Japan. During the war the Soviets liberated North Korea, while the United States moved through the south. This is how the peninsula would be divided at the 38th parallel, becoming North and South Korea.

Harry Truman. CNN

The Korean War began in June 1950 when North Korea invaded the South. On June 27, 1950, President Harry Truman ordered US troops to Korea. In what would be a common occurrence later in the 20th century, US Troops are still stationed in South Korea.

The North Koreans were supported by both the USSR and Communist China. On June 27, 1950, the recently formed United Nations&rsquo Security Council adopted a resolution that asked for aid from member countries to be sent to South Korea to fight of the northern invaders.

The war that followed was truly a war that went back and forth. After two months of fighting, the South was on the verge of defeat, but after a successful counter-offensive in September of 1950 by UN forces, the North was pushed back almost to the Chinese border. It was at this point that the Chinese entered the war with a massive surge of troops into the North, forcing the UN troops to retreat. Throughout much of 1951, the two sides traded blows, so much so that Seoul changed hands four different times. By this time, the war had truly become a war of attrition, where both sides were just trying to wear out the other in hopes of small gains.

The 38th Parallel. CNN

The fighting between the North and South ended on July 27, 1953. That is an odd way to say that the war ended, and that is because it really didn&rsquot. Technically, North and South Korea are still at war to this very day, and it seems unlikely to change any time soon. On that day in July 1953, an armistice was signed, which created the Korean Demilitarized Zone at the 38th parallel. It also allowed for the return of POWs from both sides. Both sides still occasionally battle each other.

North Korea has become something of a menace in recent years, as their leadership has continued to develop their means to do war. While the Cold War has technically ended, the hostilities between democratic ideals and communism are still very much apparent on the Korean peninsula.

The United States, according to the Pentagon, saw around 34,000 soldiers killed or wounded in the Korean war, making it one of the deadliest non-World War conflicts that America has ever taken part in.

American troops arrive in Korea to partition the country - HISTORY

When Japan surrendered to the Allies at the close of World War II, it brought along several other related incidences one which was not related, and was not seen to come, was the division of Korea in to North Korea (the democrat people’s republic of Korea) and South Korea (the republic of Korea). As the war was coming to an end, both the United States as well as the Soviet had come to an agreement that they were going to accept Japan’s surrender in Korea.

This would leave the USSR occupying Korea north of the 38th parallel line, and the United States would occupy the country south of the 38th parallel line. This was the agreement made, and it was to remain in effect until the country could come to terms and agree upon some kind of unified form of government, to occupy the entire country.

Change in Terms

These were the agreements made by the United States and Soviet Union. However, in 1947, the Cold War that had emerged between the U.S. and the Soviet, as well as the political differences by Korean citizens in both the north and the south, in addition to other issues and occupation forces, all led to the breakdown in communications and agreements which had taken place prior. In August of 1948, a pro U.S. government was laid out in Seoul, and a pro Soviet Union government was established in Pyongyang.

The 38th Parallel Divide

The fact that both the United States and the Soviet representatives claimed that they were the legitimate representative form of government for the Korean people as a whole. This created tension along the 38th parallel, which was the line that divided the Northern and the Southern borders (controlled respectively by the United States and the Soviet Union).

On June 25, 1950, North Korea (backed by the Soviet USSR), made an attempt to unify the border by forceful attacks. On the other side, the United States with United Nations assistance, led a coalition of several countries which came to aid South Korea. On the other end, the Soviet Union backed the North Korea forces, by offering aid as far as weapons and finances were concerned, and the People’s Republic of China also aided the North by providing them with thousands of troops to fight alongside the North Korean military forces throughout the duration of the war.

July 1953

This marked the end of the Korean War. Basically, things ended up the way they had started, and thousands of lives were taken, only to get the nation back to the place it was before the war erupted. In addition to the lives lost, there was plenty of physical destruction that took place to towns, businesses, homes, and other facilities, along the border of the 38th parallel, causing quite a bit of financial burden to all parties that were involved in the ordeal.

North Korea and South Korea remained equally divided along the 38th parallel, and no real changes or major modifications were made to the territories or what portion of control each side had of the country. The sides were blockaded by the ceasefire line, (the Demilitarized Zone – or DMZ), which to this day, is the dividing line between North Korea and South Korean borders.

Societal Differences

Since the division of Korea in 1953, both North and South Korea have become to radically different nations, although both stem from the same background and culture. North and South Korea have extremely different political views and government bodies in control, and economic and financial conditions on either side are also quite different for both sides. The differences that stem between the countries today have little to do with what happened pre 1945 during the war, and are more so based on the influences by the United States and the Soviet Union, which were in charge of operations for several years on the North and South borders. North Korea is influenced by the Soviet Union and their style of governant, culture, and politics, and also follows certain government based concepts and ideas from China. South Korea on the other hand, has been greatly influenced by the United States, and in some parts Japan’s government, following a democratic society, and one that gives the people more of a voice than the central government style in North Korea.

Imposition of Split

The division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea was forced upon the people by external forces, government, and powers that the Korean people had no say in. Although the former Korea is still divided and both North and South have a number of political issues and differences, the people of Korea believe that one day North and South Korea will have to reunite.

Early in the 1970s, mid 1980s, and early 1990s, the nations seemed to be coming to some kind of agreement, and reuniting of the nation, but with each attempt at reunifying the country, either side was unwilling to make certain compromises, and make certain changes, which they did not find the opposite government form was the right choice for the people as a whole.

In 2000, the first time a summit meeting ever took place, leaders of North and South Korea sat down, in an effort to discuss what agreements could be reached, and what would be in the best interest of all the citizens, military, and the nation as a whole in Korea. Although this led the people to believe there were possibilities of reunification, since the summit there has been very little communication, and even less agreement and unification effort, by the governments in North Korea and South Korea.

Although the division of Korea stems back several years, today it is possibly the most divided nation. With extreme differences in politics, government, and rights for its citizens, North Korea and South Korea have quite a few differences and vary greatly in the way that the people are governed.

History of Korean Immigration to America, from 1903 to Present

The immigration of Koreans can be largely divided into three periods: the first wave from 1903 to 1949, the second wave from 1950 to 1964, and the contemporary period. Although a few students and politicians came to the United States around 1884 after the diplomatic relations between the United States and Korea were established, they were a small minority—Yu Kil Chun (1856-1914), the first Korean student in the United States, was one of the prominent immigrants during the 1880s. Beginning in 1884, American Presbyterian and Methodists missionaries successfully converted many Koreans to Christianity, and also provided avenues for the Koreans to immigrate to America—almost half of the first group of Korean immigrants were Christians. [1]

The first significant wave of immigration started on January 13, 1903, when a shipload of Korean immigrants arrived in Hawaii to work on pineapple and sugar plantations. By 1905, more than 7,226 Koreans had come to Hawaii (637 women 465 children) to escape the famines and turbulent political climate of Korea. [2] When Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898, the plantation owners in Hawaii needed cheap labor and recruited the first influx of immigrant labor from Canton, China. When the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned the workers from recruiting Chinese laborers, the U.S. diplomat and Presbyterian missionary Horace Allen started to recruit Korean laborers.

Korean immigrants displayed a higher rate of religious participation because missionaries such as Horace Allen and George Herbert Jones played a crucial role in recruiting more than half of the first 102 immigrants from the Naeri Methodist Church in the Inchon Area. That group of Korean immigrants established the first Korean Methodist Church in Honolulu. Korean immigrant churches functioned as a cultural and religious asylum where the immigrants, isolated due to their language and cultural barriers, found comfort. [3] When the plantation labor contract expired, around 50% of Korean workers moved to the mainland and established self-employed businesses such as laundry stores and nail salons the other half returned to Korea due to various reasons, including familial reasons and difficulty associated with adjusting to a foreign culture.

From 1905 to 1924, approximately 2,000 additional Korean immigrants moved to Hawaii and California as “picture brides” of the bachelor immigrants who were already working as plantation laborers. The mass immigration abruptly ended in 1924 when Congress passed the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924, banning all Asian immigrants. However, the Exclusion Act permitted Asian students to study at various U.S. academic institutions. When Korea was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, many political refugees and intellectuals from Korea studied at universities in many East Coast cities, including Boston University, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and New York Universities. [4]

During the Korean Independent Movement of 1919, Korean diaspora communities gathered all over America—one of the most important locations was Boston, where a myriad of politicians, intellectuals, and patriots were residing. The Boston League of Friends of Korea was founded in 1920. Following the March 1st Movement in 1919, a large number of Korean nationalists came to America to study and became prominent student leaders of the Korean independence movement in America. [5]

The Second Wave of Korean Immigrants: 1950-1964

Immediately after Korea was liberated from Japan’s annexation in 1945, Korea became a battleground in the U.S and Soviet Union’s power struggle. In 1948, Korea was divided into two political entities—South Korea supported by the United States and a communist government in North Korea supported by the Soviet Union. During the Korean War (1950-1953), the second wave of Korean immigrants moved to America. What started as an ideological conflict in the Cold War period became a national calamity killing nearly 55,000 people. During this period, approximately 15,000 Koreans immigrated to the United States. The McCarran and Walter Act of 1952 nullified the Asian immigration ban and made Asian immigrants eligible for citizenship. The second wave consisted of three groups: Korean wives of American soldiers, known as war brides war orphans adopted by American families and around 27,000 people composed of students, businessmen, and intellectuals. [6]

The War Bride Act of 1946 facilitated the immigration of Korean wives of American servicemen. The war brides, like the first wave of Korean immigrants, suffered from alienation and the cultural barrier. They were isolated from both Korean and American communities because most were required to stay on military bases or in military facilities. The second group of immigrants were adopted Korean children of mixed ethnic descent. These “GI babies”—fathered by American servicemen—experienced a triple stigma: they were mixed-race, they were fatherless, and their mothers were treated as prostitutes who had borne racially “impure” babies. Among adopted Korean babies, 41 percent were “full-blooded” Koreans, 46 percent had Caucasian fathers, and the rest were African-Koreans. [7] Many of these Korean children were adopted by Christian families. In New England, around 151 children were adopted, and out of the 151, 116 were adopted to homes in Massachusetts. [8]

The last group consisted of Korean students, businessmen, and politicians. Approximately 6,000 Korean students entered the U.S. between 1950 and 1964. Many were professionals who were medical doctors, lawyers, and professors. Although not completely free from segregation and minor racism, these Korean immigrants were well accepted and integrated into the American society, becoming the “model-minority.” [9]

The Third Wave of Korean Immigration

The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act revoked the national quota system and made family reunification possible. Recognizing America’s need for skilled professionals, the government lifted the quota system and recruited experts and professionals from Asia. Their families accompanied them upon emigration. The annual number of Korean immigrants steadily increased beginning in 1965, and the 30,000 mark was reached in 1976. [10] From 1976 to 1990, the Korean diaspora community was the largest group of immigrants to move to the U.S., next to the Mexican and the Filipino community. The high unemployment rate, political insecurity, and military dictatorship caused massive numbers of Koreans to immigrate to the United States in the 1960s through the early 1980s. Their children, largely known as the “second generation,” (gyopo in Korean) compose the present-day Korean-American community. Unlike the first and second wave of immigrants who were primarily laborers, war victims, or political refugees who had no choice but to immigrate, these Korean immigrants were white-collar workers in Korea who voluntarily moved to America.

[1] Choy, Bong-Youn. Koreans in America. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1979.

[2] Patterson, Wayne. The Korean Frontiers in America: Immigration to Hawaii, 1896-1910. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988.

[3] Choe, Yong-ho. “A Brief History of Christ United Methodist Church, 1903-2003” in Christ United Methodist Church, 1903-2003: A Pictorial History. Honolulu: Christ Methodist Church, 2003.

[4] Kim, Ilpyong J. Korean-Americans: Past, Present, and Future. Elizabeth, NJ: Hollym International Corporation, 2004.

[5] The New England Centennial Committee of Korean Immigration to the United States. History of Koreans in New England. Seoul, Korea: Seon-Hak Publishing, 2004.

[6] Pyong Gap Min, Pyong. Korean’s Immigration to the United States: History and Contemporary Trends. Research Report No 3. January 27, 2011

[7] Oh, Arissa. To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of International Adoption. Stanford University Press, 2015.

[8] History of Koreans in New England, 56.

[9] Wu, Ellen D. The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Korea prepares for independence

After four decades of Japanese imperialism, most Koreans wanted to get rid of all reminders of colonial rule. When the Japanese defeat was assured, the Koreans immediately went to work to create an independent Korean government. First they formed the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence (CPKI). The committee quickly spread throughout Korea, with 145 branches by the end of August 1945. These branches were called People's Committees, and in many places they served effectively as the local government. On September 6, 1945, the CPKI elected fifty-five leaders to head the Korean People's Republic. This new Korean government favored reforms that would redistribute land and wealth, help workers, and uphold human rights for all Korean people.

Americans Were Sick of Foreign Wars

Our own troops, however, did not have the stomach to keep killing peasants for no reason, in what they dubbed the “yo-yo war.” The American public had a 30 percent approval rating of the war, and Truman’s chances at another term were quickly evaporating as his approval rating sank to 22 percent.

Diplomatic feelers were sent out through the Soviets, and armistice talks began in Kaesong. The talks dragged on for two more years due to both sides’ unwillingness to compromise and diplomatic blundering. Meanwhile, the armies still had several major clashes along the 38th parallel.

Our current foreign policy puts us at odds with North Korea and China. We fought them to a standstill in the Korean War nearly 70 years ago, and are still in a stalemate on the 38th parallel. An armistice was signed in 1953, but there is no true peace treaty. The closest we’ve come was in 2018 when North and South Korean leaders Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in signed the Panmunjom Declaration during the Inter-Korean Summit.

This was later reaffirmed during a historic summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. This groundbreaking progress regressed as the Trump White House focused on domestic issues in 2020.

Korea is a thought-provoking conflict that should be studied in intimate detail by the U.S. military and foreign policy experts. Let’s learn from our failures. Past actions cannot necessarily predict the future, but why not gain as much knowledge as we can regarding the Chinese and Korean mindset and the nature of the battlefield on the Korean Peninsula?

This Memorial Day, let’s remember the Korean War and the 33,739 Americans who died fighting communism. Their sacrifice on the altar of freedom must not be forgotten.

Ireland and Korea share similar history of colonial occupation and partition

Almost half a century after the country was divided, the leader of the southern part made a historic journey north to meet his counterpart. "I shall get into terrible trouble for this," he told his host. "No," came the reply, "it is I who will get into trouble for this."

This exchange took place on January 14th, 1965, between the then Taoiseach Sean Lemass and Terence O'Neill, in the Stormont lavatory, so the story goes, and the Northern Ireland Prime Minister did indeed get into trouble as the North slipped into decades of turmoil and he found himself out of a job.

Yesterday, just over half a century after their country was partitioned, the leader of South Korea, President Kim Dae-jung, travelled north to meet for the first time with his counterpart, Mr Kim Jong-il, and no doubt both reflected on what sort of trouble lay ahead as they broke a historic logjam.

There are many parallels between Ireland and Korea, which is sometimes referred to as the Ireland of Asia. The two have a history of colonial occupation. The people of both Ireland and Korea also have an informality at odds with the more reserved social customs of the colonial power, which in Korea's case was Japan.

Prof Kevin O'Rourke of Kyung Hee University, one of the most highly acclaimed translators of Korean literature in the world, having completed 14 volumes of Korean poetry, recalls how he found the people of rural South Korea very similar to those of rural Ireland in humour and hospitality when he arrived in 1964 as a Columban Father. Recently a senior South Korean government minister related how much he identified with Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes as it described the life of poverty in which he grew up.

The most obvious shared experience is that of partition. The border between North and South Korea is, however, much more formidable than between the two parts of Ireland, where Partition was never an impediment to free movement.

The frontier in Korea is a mined, barbed-wired no man's land, across which two heavily armed forces face each other. It is guaranteed by 37,000 US soldiers. The two Koreas are technically still at war since an armistice ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Millions of families have been separated and have not seen or heard from loved ones for 50 years.

Korea's misfortune was that it was an area of greater strategic importance than Ireland, and the border became a confrontation zone between two ideologies. The division had its origins in a decision by the United States during the second World War to encourage the Soviet Union to join in the war against Japan.

When Japan suddenly collapsed, Washington decided to carve up the Korean peninsula into two occupation zones. On August 11th, 1945, two American officers, Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel, were given 30 minutes to select an appropriate boundary line. They chose the 38th parallel.

After the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea aligned itself with the Soviet Union and China, and the South became a protectorate of the United States.

The USSR collapsed and China embraced market economics. North Korea's leaders refused to abandon their communist system, and their country became an anachronism in the modern world. North Korea has all along underpinned its ideology with the ideal of self-reliance called Juche, which is "Ourselves Alone" . . . taken to its extreme.

The result is a country without computers, the Internet, mobile telephones, modern vehicles, up-to-date medicines or modern household devices. Its people are stifled by censorship and forced to live in a cultlike atmosphere of worship for the Dear Leader. Millions have died from hunger and related diseases as crops and farming methods failed in the 1990s. Its stunted children are centimetres shorter than half a century ago.

Contrast that with South Korea, the tiger of Asia, which has integrated with the global economy and, after a long struggle against military dictatorship, today enjoys democracy and freedom of expression. Where Pyongyang is a city of deserted avenues and power cuts, Seoul at night looks like a scene from the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner, with giant television screens atop glass office towers.

Kim Jong-il now desperately needs aid from the south, the only entity prepared to devote huge resources to alleviating the north's poverty. The price he will have to pay is opening up to the world. Yesterday was the first instalment.

The experience of Germany shows that a homogeneous people divided by a Cold War frontier can reunite when ideology ceases to be a factor. Despite the pain and the affront to the dignity of many East Germans, who now can contemplate a divided Germany? The prospect of an eventual united Korea may therefore be more realistic than that of a truly united Ireland, as the divisions are not about long-lasting fundamental concepts such as nationality, sovereignty and religion.

Economists in Seoul say the south cannot achieve reunification by absorption, as did West Germany. But the first step towards reconciliation has been taken, and it is bound to have greater repercussions in North Korea than in the south. It is Juche which has failed.

In the circumstances, if the two Kims had a conversation like that between Lemass and O'Neill, it's likely it would have been the North Korean leader who would have said: "No, Kim Dae-jung, it is I who will get into trouble for this."

U.S. Relations With the Republic of Korea

The United States and Korea’s Joseon Dynasty established diplomatic relations under the 1882 Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, and the first U.S. diplomatic envoy arrived in Korea in 1883. U.S.-Korea relations continued until 1905, when Japan assumed direction over Korean foreign affairs. In 1910, Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule over Korea. Following Japan’s surrender in 1945, at the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel into two occupation zones, with the United States in the South and the Soviet Union in the North. Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea were not realized, and in 1948 two separate nations were established — the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North. In 1949, the United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea.

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded the ROK. Led by the United States, a United Nations coalition of 16 countries undertook its defense. Following China’s entry into the war on behalf of North Korea later that year, a stalemate ensued for the final two years of the conflict until an armistice was concluded on July 27, 1953. A peace treaty has never been signed. In 1953, at the conclusion of the Korean War, the United States and the Republic of Korea signed a Mutual Defense Treaty, the foundation of a comprehensive alliance that endures today.

In the decades after the war, the ROK experienced political turmoil under autocratic leadership, but developed a vocal civil society that led to strong protests against authoritarian rule. Pro-democracy activities intensified in the 1980s, beginning with the Gwangju Democratization Movement in May 1980, eventually leading to the ROK’s transition to what is now a vibrant democracy.

The United States and the ROK share a long history of cooperation based on mutual trust, shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, common strategic interests, and an enduring friendship. The two countries work together to combat regional and global threats and to strengthen their economies. The United States has maintained Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine personnel in the ROK in support of its commitment under the U.S.-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty to help the ROK defend itself against external aggression. In 2020, the two countries commemorated the 67th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. A Combined Forces Command coordinates operations between U.S. Forces Korea and ROK armed forces. The United States and the ROK continue to coordinate closely on respective engagements with the DPRK, the implementation of sanctions, and inter-Korean cooperation. As the ROK’s economy has developed (it joined the OECD in 1996), trade and investment ties have become an increasingly important aspect of the U.S.-ROK relationship, including through implementation of the amended Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA).

In recent years, the U.S.-ROK Alliance has expanded into a deep, comprehensive global partnership, and the ROK’s role as a regional and global leader continues to grow, as evident most recently as a successful model for other countries around the world on COVID-19 response. In the early months of the pandemic, the United States and the ROK collaborated to establish robust travel screening measures to preserve air linkages. The ROK has donated essential medical supplies to the United States, including 2.5 million protective masks, and facilitated the purchase of 750,000 COVID-19 tests. U.S. and ROK experts and policymakers regularly share best practices on fighting COVID-19. In 2019 the ROK committed maritime assets in the Strait of Hormuz and committed to share information with the International Maritime Security Construct. The ROK is a major donor and leader in development efforts, including health security, women’s empowerment, and humanitarian assistance. The U.S. and the ROK hold an annual Senior Economic Dialogue, where policymakers from both sides coordinate on economic issues and advance regional economic cooperation under the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy and the ROK’s New Southern Policy.

The emergence of the ROK as a global leader has also led to an increasingly dynamic U.S.-ROK Alliance focused on future-oriented partnership opportunities including space, energy, health, climate change, and cyber. The United States and ROK renewed in 2015 the Civil Nuclear “123” Agreement and maintain a High-Level Bilateral Commission to address civil nuclear issues of mutual interest. The two countries signed in 2016 a Civil Space Framework Agreement to increase cooperation in civil space exploration, and we hold biennial cabinet-level Joint Committee Meetings on science and technology. The comprehensive U.S.-ROK Science and Technology Agreement (STA) has facilitated mutually beneficial scientific cooperation. The ROK is an active partner on efforts to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, and has established a World Fisheries University.

People-to-people ties between the United States and the ROK are a central pillar of our multifaceted relationship. The ROK is third in absolute terms (and first per capita) as a source of international students attending U.S. colleges and universities. Educational exchanges include a robust Fulbright exchange program, as well as the Work, English, Study, and Travel (WEST) program that gives a diverse group of Korean students and young leaders the opportunity to learn more about the United States.

Underscoring the strength of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, President Moon’s first overseas trip after his May 2017 inauguration was to the United States in June 2017. In November 2017, President Trump became the first U.S. president to make a state visit to the Republic of Korea in 25 years, although previous presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton all made several non-state visits to the ROK during that period.

U.S. Assistance to the Republic of Korea

The United States provides no development assistance to the ROK. The ROK, once a recipient of U.S. assistance in the years after the Korean War, has become a donor of development aid to other countries.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Over the past several decades, the ROK has achieved a remarkably high level of economic growth and in 2019 was the United States’ sixth-largest goods trading partner. Major U.S. firms have long been leading investors and the United States was the ROK’s second largest source of foreign direct investment in 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund. U.S. foreign direct investment in the ROK accounted for $39.1 billion inward FDI stock in 2019. The two countries reached $168.6 billion in trade in 2019, with large-scale flows of manufactured goods, agricultural products, services, and hi-tech goods. ROK foreign direct investment in the United States continues to grow and has more than tripled since 2011 from $19.7 billion to $61.1 billion in 2019 on a historical-cost basis by country of ultimate beneficial owner, making the Republic of Korea the second-largest Asian source of foreign direct investment into the United States. In the last three years, Korean companies have made major investment announcements in automotive components, industrial equipment, consumer electronics, and other sectors. The KORUS FTA entered into force on March 15, 2012, underscoring the depth of bilateral trade ties. The United States and ROK negotiated modifications and amendments to KORUS in 2018, and the updated agreement entered into force on January 1, 2019.

The Republic of Korea’s Membership in International Organizations

The ROK and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, G-20, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. The ROK hosts the Green Climate Fund, an international organization associated with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The ROK also is a Partner for Cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and an observer to the Organization of American States.

Bilateral Representation

Principal Embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

The ROK maintains an embassy in the United States at 2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-939-5600).

More information about South Korea is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

American troops arrive in Korea to partition the country - HISTORY

On June 25, 1950, Communist North Korean forces invaded South Korea, beginning a three-year war. Three days later, the South Korean capital of Seoul fell to the North Koreans. President Truman immediately ordered U.S. air and sea forces to "give the Korean government troops cover and support."

The conflict lasted until July 27, 1953. The United States suffered 54,246 battle deaths and 103,284 wounded.

Tensions had festered since the Korean peninsula had been divided into a Communist North and a non-Communist South in 1945. With the partition, 10 million Koreans were separated from their families.

For three months, the United States was unable to stop the communist advance. Then, Douglas MacArthur successfully landed two divisions ashore at Inchon, behind enemy lines. The North Koreans fled in disarray across the 38th parallel, the pre-war border between North and South Korea.

The initial mandate that the United States had received from the United Nations called for the restoration of the original border at the 38th parallel. But the South Korean army had no intention of stopping at the pre-war border, and on Sept. 30, 1950, they crossed into the North. The United States pushed an updated mandate through the United Nations, and on Oct. 7, the Eighth Army crossed the border.

By November, U.S. Army and Marine units thought they could end the war in just five more months. China's communist leaders threatened to send combat forces into Korea, but the U.S. commander, Douglas MacArthur, thought they were bluffing.

In mid-October, the first of 300,000 Chinese soldiers slipped into North Korea. When U.S. forces began what they expected to be their final assault in late November, they ran into the Chinese army. There was a danger that the U.S. Army might be overrun. The Chinese intervention ended any hope of reunifying Korea by force of arms.

General MacArthur called for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to unleash American air and naval power against China. But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Omar Bradley, said a clash with China would be "the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy."

By mid-January 1951, Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway succeeded in halting an American retreat 50 miles south of the 38th parallel. A week and a half later, he had the army attacking northward again. By March, the front settled along the 38th parallel and the South Korean capital of Seoul was back in South Korean hands. American officials informed MacArthur that peace negotiations would be sought.

In April, President Truman relieved MacArthur of his command after the general, in defiance of Truman's orders, commanded the bombing of Chinese military bases in Manchuria. The president feared that such actions would bring the Soviet Union into the conflict.

The Korean War was filled with lessons for the future. First, it demonstrated that the United States was committed to the containment of communism, not only in Western Europe, but throughout the world. Prior to the outbreak of the Korean War, the Truman administration had indicated that Korea stood outside America's sphere of vital national interests. Now, it was unclear whether any nation was outside this sphere.

Second, the Korean War proved how difficult it was to achieve victory even under the best circumstances imaginable. In Korea, the United States faced a relatively weak adversary and had strong support from its allies. The United States possessed an almost total monopoly of sophisticated weaponry, and yet, the war dragged on for almost four years.

Third, the Korean War illustrated the difficulty of fighting a limited war. Limited wars are, by definition, fought for limited objectives. They are often unpopular at home because it is difficult to explain precisely what the country is fighting for. The military often complains that it is fighting with one armed tied behind its back. But if one tries to escalate a limited war, a major power, like China, might intervene.

Hard Fighting, and MacArthur is Ousted: February - May 1951

Battle of Chipyong-ni, Siege of Wonsan Harbor, Operation Ripper, UN retakes Seoul, Operation Tomahawk, MacArthur relieved of command, First big airfight, First Spring Offensive, Second Spring Offensive, Operation Strangle

Restoring Ruling-Class Power

The April Revolution opened a small window during which the Left regained some of its losses, with large increases in the number of labor unions and union members. Labor disputes increased from 95 in 1959 to 227 in 1960. However, before labor, students, and leftists had a chance to grab power back from the ruling-class elite, labor and democracy activists were labeled as agents of “social agitation and political instability.” General Park Chung-hee led a coup on May 16, 1961, putting an immediate end to movements for unification, democratic governance, and worker control over factories. The United States judged Park to be an anti-communist dictator who would be friendly to American interests, and therefore did not act to stop the coup.

A former lieutenant in the Japanese-controlled Manchukuo Army, Park Chung-hee oversaw the swift militarization of South Korean life. If he was something of an outsider to the existing political and business elite, this allowed him to implement sweeping economic reforms and political rearrangements that were not possible during the Rhee administration. Through the formation of the Economic Planning Board, Park centralized the distributed functions of the state and took nominal control of private corporations, utilizing foreign loans and the environment of a globalizing economy to pursue export-oriented industrialization based on capital-intensive industries. The decimation and demoralization of the Left guaranteed low wages and a docile workforce as the base of this new capital accumulation regime.

Viewed from the perspective of history, the May 16 coup and the rise of Park Chung-hee’s military dictatorship can be seen as the reactionary response of the ruling class to the April Revolution, which erupted over people’s anger at the America-friendly Syngman Rhee dictatorship, and the subsequent revival of the labor and unification movements.

The Park Chung-hee coup was a product of the collaboration between the right-wing Korean ruling class and American imperialism — which saw Korea as an anti-communist outpost during the Cold War. In this context, the coup can be seen as a single event in an ongoing class war on the Korean peninsula.

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