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ISBN: 9781771861359-09

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The Campaign of 1950-1953

From: Patriots, Traitors and Empires


Chapter nine, The Campaign of 1950-1953 provides a Korean perspective on the Korean War. From the perspective of the Republic of Korea, the movement of its military forces north of the 38th parallel did not constitute an act of aggression across an international boundary, since all Korean territory, including that north of the 38th parallel, was territory under its jurisdiction. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had a parallel view. The advance of its forces south of the 38th parallel was perfectly legitimate, since Korean territory south of this line fell under the DPRK’s purview. In other words, no matter what their differences, both sides agreed on this: the sole legitimate government of Korea could move its military forces into territory over which it had a sovereign claim. The conflict was not a matter of one state initiating a war of aggression against another by launching a general invasion across an international frontier, since no international frontier existed. But if the war cannot be cogently characterized in these terms, how should it be characterized? One view is that it was a civil war, a quarrel between Koreans over how to organize the social, political, and economic life of the peninsula, on whose soil existed a single nation. At the heart of the debate was the question of equality. Examining the key issues which arose from the core of the issue and lead to the war.



Stephen Gowans

Stephen Gowans is an independent political analyst whose principal interest is in who influences formulation of foreign policy in the United States. His writings, which appear on his What’s Left blog, have been reproduced widely in online and print media in many languages and have been cited in academic journals and other scholarly works.