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Was the Korean War a Product of the Cold War tensions? Essay

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A. Plan of Investigation.

The aim of this investigation is to asses if the Korean War was a product of the Cold war tensions. This investigation evaluates the long and short term causes of the Korean War. As well as looking at the Cold War as a factor for the Korean war I will also go on to evaluate the importance of internal factors such as Korea wanting to become self determined. I will be looking at the role of the opposing ideologies (communism vs. capitalism) and at the role China took in the Korean War.

B. Summary of Evidence.

In the long term the conflict occurred as a by-product of the Cold War tensions, this began after WW2. The USA no longer saw the Soviet Union as its ally but now as an enemy seeking to dominate the world. By 1949 the cold war tensions were at boiling point because of such events such as the Truman Doctrine, Marshall Aid, and the Berlin Blockade. These flash points had caused tension and misunderstanding between the USA and the USSR because of the actions they took. But because of the opposing ideologies (communism vs. capitalism) if the USA or USSR brought about any policies they would be a direct threat to each other because their ideologies want to achieve different things. After F.Roosevelt died in April 1945 H.Truman took over as president. He regarded the Soviet Union as an ideological rival prepared to use treason, disruption, and bullying tactics to promote communism and gain ground and power in Europe.

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He saw the creation of satellite states in Eastern Europe as proof of a Soviet aim to spread communist control abroad. To counter this Truman set up a policy of containment which hoped would control the spread of communism around Europe which became known as the Truman Doctrine. This stated that the US would aid any county or government under attack by armed minorities. To show that the relationship was well and truly over in 1950 the NSC-68 was published by the US national security. It was a report by the USA which blamed the communist expansionism of Stalin for the continuation of the Cold War and in it the Soviet Union was considered to be aiming to dominate Europe and Asia as part of the spread of world communism. It recommended much stronger action against communism.

America now saw this as a chance to see if this new more aggressive tactic was going to prove a success in containing the Soviet Union. So to now have the USA occupying the South of Korea and the USSR occupying the North of Korea both with armed forces, it was never going to be a peaceful relationship. The USA had just opted for a new hard-line aggressive attitude in containing communist expansion and the Soviet Union was set on world domination so both countries had their own reasons to control the whole of Korea. Plus all the mistrust and tensions that had been building up it was no surprise that a war broke out between these to countries in Korea.

Since 1905 Korea had been ruled by Japan and in 1949 after the defeat of WW2 Japan stepped down as ruler which left a power vacuum in Korea which was soon stepped in by America and Russia. This meant from 1905 Korea had been occupied by other countries and not purely by itself. One beneficiary of this aid was South Korea. Between 1910-1945 Korea had been part of the Japanese colonial empire. With the defeat of Japan in 1945 the United States, along with the Soviet Union, decided to split the country in half at the 38th parallel.

The Russians occupied North Korea, which now became a Communist state (known as the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, DPRK), led by Kim IL Sung. Meanwhile, Syngman Rhee became president of South Korea (known as the republic of Korea, ROK), which as supported by America. Both the regimes though were puppets of the 2 superpowers. Both dictators believed in nationalism and wanted Korea to be self determined. Also both the dictators wanted the unification of Korea to be under there own name believing that they would be seen as the liberators of Korea and have the greatest respect from their people.

But to have this one from the south or north would have to invade and take over the other side. Civil conflict in South Korea and growing opposition to the president, Syngman Rhee, persuaded the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, that he would be welcomed by many south Koreans as a liberator intent on overthrowing the Rhee government and reuniting the 2 Koreans. As a champion of Korean unification Kim would also undermine continuing opposition to his own regime in North Korea. With Moscow’s approval and extensive military aid, Kim sought to unite the Koreas swiftly by force of arms.


From looking at all the causes of the Korean War I have come to the conclusion that the Korean War was a product of Cold War tensions. The Cold War by this time was at such a boiling point that any action or policy published by the USA or USSR would seem to be a direct threat to each other. By this time America were in full swing of their policy of containment to prevent the spread of communism so to have these two countries occupying different sides Korea was all ways going to cause problems. Even though there was two leaders of South and North Korea trying to untie the country in their own name they were puppets of the USSR and USA because Kim IL Sung was a communist and Syngman Rhee was capitalist so these two dictators would also be aware of the Cold War tensions and would not trust each other. So all the problems encountered in Korea ended up being related to the Cold War.

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