Korean War Summary and Facts


Koreans welcomed the defeat of Japan in World War II with great joy and relief. However, their joy was short-lived. Liberation did not bring the independence for which the Koreans had fought so hard, but the inception of ideological conflict in a divided country.

The efforts of the Koreans to establish and independent government were frustrated by the United States in the South and the occupation of the North by the Soviet Union.

In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which called for a general election under the supervision of the UN Commission. However, the Soviet Union refused to comply with the UN resolution and denied the UN Commission access to the northern part of Korea. The UN Assembly adopted a new resolution calling for elections in areas accessible to the UN Commission.

The first elections in Korea took place on May 10, 1948, in the area south of the 38th parallel, and the government of the Republic of Korea was inaugurated on August 15,. A Communist regime was set up in the North under Kim Il-sung, a Stalinist ruler with absolute power.

On June 25, 1950, North Korea launched an unprovoked full-scale invasion of the South and started a war that lasted three years. As the Communist North Koreans campaigned to unify the country by force, the entire land was devastated and millions of people were left homeless and separated from their families. A cease-fire was signed in July 1953, and both sides have since gone through enormous changes in their efforts at rehabilitation.

Reunification remains the long-cherished but elusive goal of all Koreans on both sides of the vigilantly guarded Military Demarcation Line. The fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany raised expectations in Korea the unification could be achieved in the not very distant future.

Some progress in promoting trust and cooperation between the two halves of the peninsula was made in recent years. However, the threat of North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons development program has stood in the way of real forward movement, and there is still a long bumpy road before the proposed Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) project for the construction of lightwater nuclear reactors gets under way in the North and other North Korean nuclear issues are completely settled.


  • 6.8 million served on active-duty during the Korean War
  • 1.8 million served during period of hostilities 36,940 died in theater during the war
  • 4,793 died while missing in action
  • 92,100 service members were wounded in theater, some several times
  • 8,176 are still listed as missing in action 7,140 were POWs of whom 4,418 returned
  • 131 Korean War participants received the Medal of Honor
  • The median age of Korean War veterans (2003) is 69
  • California has the highest number of Korean Veterans
  • 18% of Koran War era veterans did not have a high school diploma
  • 46% of American casualties were sustained between July 1951 and July 1953
  • 16% of veterans serviced by Veteran Hospitals are Korean veterans
  • 172,600 Korean veterans receive service-connected compensation
  • The Second Infantry Division suffered the largest number killed: 7,094
  • 1.8 million Korean veterans used VA Home Loans to buy their first house
  • Nearly 79,000 Koran veterans received disabled vocational rehabilitation
  • The First Marine Division suffered the largest number wounded; 25,864
  • There are more than 40,000 Internet web sites related to the Korean War
  • More than 60,000 headstones have been provided for Korean War veterans
  • Fewer than 21% of Korean veterans are associated with any reunion or military association