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UN in Korea


The United Nations used armed force against North Korea and China during the Korean War, 1950-53. Communist North Koreans invaded South Korea. A UN army, led by the USA, invaded Korea and tried to drive the communists back.


When it seemed that the UN forces might conquer the whole of Korea, the North Koreans were reinforced by troops from communist China. The war eventually led to stalemate and Korea remained divided into communist North Korea and non-communist South Korea. There are at least two possible interpretations of the role of the UN in the Korean War:


Interpretation A

The Korean War was a success for the United Nations. It showed that the UN could take firm action against aggression.


Interpretation B

The Korean War was a failure for the United Nations. The UN forces were completely dominated by the USA. The Korean War showed that the Cold War had ruined the original idea of the United Nations.


A UN army or an American army?

The UN army that fought against the communists in Korea was dominated by the USA and was led by the US General MacArthur. The government of the United States controlled the war and simply reported its decisions to the Security Council. Another 15 countries supplied troops to the UN but they were a small minority of the total UN force. Leaders of countries, such as Britain which sent troops, became annoyed at the way General MacArthur and President Truman failed to consult them about important decisions in the war.