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The Korean War (in South Korean Hangul: 한국전쟁; hanja: 韓國戰爭; RR: Hanguk Jeonjaeng, "Korean War"; in North Korean Chosŏn'gŭl: 조국해방전쟁; hancha: 祖國解放戰爭; MR: Choguk haebang chǒnjaeng, "Fatherland Liberation War") began when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United Nations, with the United States as the principal force, came to the aid of South Korea. China, with assistance from the Soviet Union, came to the aid of North Korea. The war arose from the division of Korea at the end of World War II and from the global tensions of the Cold War that developed immediately afterwards.

Background

Korea was ruled by Japan from 1910 until the closing days of World War II. In August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, as a result of an agreement with the United States, and liberated Korea north of the 38th parallel. U.S. forces subsequently moved into the south. By 1948, as a product of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, Korea was split into two regions, with separate governments. Both governments claimed to be the legitimate government of Korea, and neither side accepted the border as permanent. The civil war escalated into open warfare when North Korean forces—supported by the Soviet Union and China—moved to the south to unite the country on 25 June 1950. On that day, the United Nations Security Council recognized this North Korean act as invasion and called for an immediate ceasefire. On 27 June, the Security Council adopted S/RES/83: Complaint of aggression upon the Republic of Korea and decided the formation and dispatch of the UN Forces in Korea. Twenty-one countries of the United Nations eventually contributed to the defense of South Korea, with the United States providing 88% of the UN's military personnel.

After the first two months of the conflict, South Korean forces were on the point of defeat, forced back to the Pusan Perimeter. In September 1950, an amphibious UN counter-offensive was launched at Inchon, and cut off many of the North Korean troops. Those that escaped envelopment and capture were rapidly forced back north all the way to the border with China at the Yalu River, or into the mountainous interior. At this point, in October 1950, Chinese forces crossed the Yalu and entered the war. Chinese intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces which continued until mid-1951. After these dramatic reversals of fortune, which saw Seoul change hands four times, the last two years of conflict became a war of attrition, with the front line close to the 38th parallel. The war in the air, however, was never a stalemate. North Korea was subject to a massive bombing campaign. Jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat for the first time in history, and Soviet pilots covertly flew in defense of their communist allies.

The fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea, and allowed the return of prisoners. However, no peace treaty has been signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war. Periodic clashes, many of which were deadly, have continued to the present.

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