Skip to Content

27 Facts About the Korean War Most People Don’t Know

The Korean War was a Cold War clash that took place over the span of three years. It pitted North Korea, the Soviet Union, and the People’s Republic of China against the United Nations, which was led by the United States.  

It was the first military action of the Cold War and has gone down in history as a major battle between communism and capitalism. Millions of lives were lost, and the landscape of the Korean peninsula was drastically changed.  

Let’s get into the most interesting facts about the Korean War.

oregon korean war memorial

Facts About the Korean War

Let’s get into the most fascinating facts about the Korean War. From why the fighting started, to the different countries involved and the significant battles.

1) Korea Became Divided After World War 2

Japan annexed Korea in 1910 with the JapanKorea Treaty, and up until the end of World War 2, Korea was ruled as part of the Empire of Japan.  

However, after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered to the Allies. This resulted in the control of the country being passed to the US and the Soviet Union.  

Korea was intended to be kept as one country, but when the United Nations called for elections in 1947, the Soviets refused. So, the US occupied the south, and the Soviet Union occupied the north.

2) The Korean War Started on June 25, 1950

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950. Roughly 75,000 soldiers of the North Korean People’s Army crossed over the 38th parallel. This was the boundary that separated Soviet-supported North Korea from the western-backed Republic of South Korea.

3) The Korean War Was a Fight Over Communism and Democracy

The Korean War was a proxy war of the Cold War. North Korea favored a communist state, while South Korea favored democracy and capitalism. The North invaded the South in an attempt to reunite the two nations into one communist country.  

north korea map
north korea map

The fight in Korea was a symbol of the worldwide struggle that was already taking place against communism. The United Nations, especially the US, believed that if the Soviets won the battle over the Korean peninsula, they would keep going and spread their communist ideology from country to country.

4) Many Nations Made up the United Nations Fighting Force

A total of 21 nations joined the fight to keep South Korea safe for a capitalistic and democratic society. Troops came from all over the world, including countries like the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and New Zealand.   

5) The United States Deployed the Most Amount of Troops

The US sent about 1,780,000 Americans to fight in the Korean War. This was about 90% of all the troops that were sent by the United Nations to aid South Korea.

6) Luxembourg Deployed the Least Amount of Troops

Luxembourg joined the war on the side of the United Nations. They deployed 110 troops in total. Of this number, two were killed in action, and 17 were injured.

south korean flag facts about the korean war
south korean flag

7) Just Two Other Countries Supported North Korea

Many different nations supported South Korea during the war. However, this wasn’t the case for North Korea, which was only supported by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

8) Both Sides Had Almost Equal Support in Numbers

Over six million combatants fought on both sides during the Korean War. Just over half of this number was made up of soldiers from North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and the Soviet Union.

9) The First Year of the War Was the Deadliest

About 25% of all the Americans killed during the war died during the first year of fighting. The Battle of the Pusan Perimeter, which took place from August to September, resulted in over 3,000 combat fatalities alone.

korean war memorial
korean war memorial

10) The First President of South Korea Was Syngman Rhee

Syngman Rhee was the first President of South Korea. He served from 1948 to 1960 and was in office when the Korean War broke out. He was a ruthless leader who was known for jailing and assassinating political opponents.  

Today, his legacy is met with mixed feelings from the citizens of South Korea.

11) Syngman Rhee Ordered the Bodo League Massacre

Syngman Rhee ordered the Bodo League Massacre, which took place in the summer of 1950 during the Korean War.   This war crime ordered the killing of communists and suspected sympathizers. However, many of those targeted were civilians who did not have any connections to communists or communism. Death tolls vary, but historians estimate that anywhere between 60,000 to 200,000 people were killed during the massacre.   

The South Korean government attempted to cover up the massacre for decades, even pinning it on Kim II-sung and his communist following. Survivors of the massacre were forbidden by the government from divulging information under suspicion of being communist sympathizers.

12) Kim Il-Sung Was the Communist Leader of North Korea

Kim Il-Sung was the communist leader of North Korea from 1948 until his death in 1994. In an attempt to reunite both sides of Korea by force, it was Kim who ordered the invasion of South Korea in 1950, which ignited the Korean War.   He is recognized as the founder of North Korea.

north korea flag
north korea flag

13) Douglas MacArthur Led the United Nations at War

Douglas MacArthur commanded the United Nations forces during the Korean War. He was an accomplished American general who had previously commanded the Allied forces in the Southwest Pacific during World War 2.   

At first, he was a great leader during the Korean War. He stopped the North’s advance to Pusan, carried out a bold landing at Inch’ŏn, and progressed into North Korea as their army rapidly deteriorated.  

However, MacArthur and President Truman started to disagree on war tactics going forward. A public dispute broke out, and eventually, the President fired MacArthur for insubordination. This move surprised the American political system and shocked the world.

14) For the United Nations, the War Started as a Defensive One

For the United Nations, the Korean War started as a defensive one. Its mission was to remove communists from South Korea. However, it quickly turned into an offensive war, and the mission changed to liberating the North from communists.

korean war jeep
korean war jeep

15) Frostbite Was a Major Issue During the Korean War

Unequipped for the harsh winter conditions, thousands of US troops experienced severe frostbite due to the extremely cold temperatures. It’s estimated that about 5,300 suffered some form of frostbite during the first winter of the war.

16) Seoul Changed Hands Four Times During the War

The South Korean capital of Seoul is located about 35 miles from the North-South border. It changed hands a total of four times during the Battle of Seoul.  

During the First Battle of Seoul in June of 1950,  the North Koreans took hold of the capital. However, a few months later, in September, it was taken by the United Nations forces during the Second Battle of Seoul.  

The Chinese then managed to seize the city in January of 1951 during the Third Battle of Seoul, but lost it two months after that, as the United Nations retook it in the Fourth Battle of Seoul.

17) The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army Tried to Retake Seoul Again

The Fifth Battle of Seoul was led by The Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. They attempted to recapture the capital in April 1951 during the Chinese Spring Offensive in April 1951. However, they failed to recapture it.

korea war vet

18) There Were Many Civilian Casualties During the War

The civilian casualties of the Korean War are staggering. More than half of the total casualties during the war were civilians. This was about 10% of Korea’s total prewar population.

19) The War Devastated North Korea

The Korean War ravaged both sides, but North Korea was hit especially hard. The US dropped around 635,000 tons of bombs on the North, which killed an estimated 12 to 15 %of the population. It’s one of the most heavily bombed countries in history.

20) Although They Were Involved, The US Never Officially Declared War

The US got involved in the Korean War almost immediately. US President Harry S. Truman ordered into action naval and air forces as well as the use of ground troops. However, Congress never officially declared war. Instead, Truman called it a “police action.”

harry truman stamp
harry truman stamp

21) The TV Show M*A*S*H Depicts the Korean War

The popular US TV show M*A*S*H aired from 1972 until 1983. It followed the life of an army surgical team based in a field hospital during the Korean War.

22) The Korean War is Known By Several Other Names

Although it’s widely known by the west as the “Korean War;” this conflict has several different names.  

In South Korea, it’s usually referred to as the “625 War” or the “625 Upheaval”. The number references the date the war started. In North Korea, it’s called the “Fatherland Liberation War.” In mainland China, it’s known as “Resist America and Assist Korea”.

korea map
korea map

23) The Korean War Was Overshadowed by Other Wars

The Korean War broke out after World War 2 and was followed by the Vietnam War. Both of these events generated much more public attention. For this reason, the Korean War is referred to as “The Forgotten War”.

24) Armistice Negotiations Went on For Over Two Years

Negotiation to end the Korean War went on for exactly two years and 17 days, from 1951 to 1953. This is the most prolonged negotiated armistice in history.  

Representatives from the United Nations Command, the Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army had a total of 158 meetings before they agreed on a final document.

building damaged in the korean war
building damaged in the korean war

25) A Peace Treaty Between the Two Sides Has Never Been Signed

Although the Korean War Armistice Agreement ended the fighting in July of 1953, a peace treaty between North and South Korea has never been signed. The two sides remain divided by a heavily fortified demilitarized zone.

26) The War Devastated Both Sides of Korea

The aftermath of the war was felt long after fighting ceased. Both North and South Korea suffered major damage to their infrastructure and economies. Bombs had left towns and cities in ruins, and many lives were lost.  

North Korea was able to recover faster, however. Their government carried out a well-organized plan that laid the foundation for a modern, business-focused society. South Korea suffered from poor leadership, political upheavals, and corruption.

27) Tensions Between North and South Korea Remain High to This Day

To this day, South Korea and North Korea don’t have a great relationship. Neither side actually won the Korean War, and in 2013, North Korea declared the armistice it had signed in 1953 invalid.  

korean war

Related Posts:

Facts about the Vietnam War

Facts about Watergate

Like this post? Why not share it?

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!