The Korean War was an armed conflict that began in 1950 and lasted three years. It was one of the major conflicts of the Cold War.
Following the end of WWII, Korea was split along the 38th parallel, a latitudinal line that would serve as the demarcation for the two new countries. The Soviets backed North Korea, while the U.N. supported South Korea.
In North Korea, Kim Il Sung organized a communist government known as the Democratic People's Republic. Syngman Rhee established a government in the south – the Republic of Korea. Each government hoped to reunify the country under its own rule
June 25, 1950
North Korean troops coordinate an attack at strategic points along the 38th parallel and head south toward Seoul. The United Nations Security Council votes 9-0 to adopt a resolution condemning the invasion as a "breach of the peace."
June 27, 1950
President Truman commits American forces to a combined U.N. military effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur is named Commander of the U.N. forces, and the U.S. formally enters the conflict.
October 19, 1950
After liberating the South Korean city of Seoul, seizing the North Korean Pyongyang, and mounting offensive maneuvers against North Korea, two groups of the Chinese People's Liberation Army attack and defeat outnumbered U.N. forces, inflicting heavy casualties.
The People's Republic of China, after warning the U.N., enters the war to defend the the North Korean regime and prevent the establishment of an American-allied Korea on its border.
February 1, 1951
While fighting hits a standstill, peace talks begin. Early efforts prove unsuccessful though and the war treads on for two more brutal years.
July 27, 1953
By the time a diplomatic solution was in sight, losses were heavy on all sides.
- 217,000 killed or missing in action
- 429,000 wounded in action
- 36, 568 killed or missing in action
- 103, 284 wounded in action
- 3,063 killed or missing in action
- 11,817 wounded in action
Combined forces of North Korea and China
- 800,000 killed in action
North and South Korean civilians
- 1.2 million killed
Seeking an end to these viscous hostilities, an armistice agreement is signed at Panmunjom, Korea to end combat.
The U.S., China and North Korea sign the armistice, with South Korea abstaining. South Korean President Syngman doesn't sign as he refuses to accept having failed to unite Korea.
After signing, the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, is established along the 38th parallel. North and South Korea remained separated to this day, halted in a frozen conflict.
Editor's Note: Some information within this article was provided by the National Archives.