When World War II ended, the USA and the Soviet Union, who were previously allies, became involved in what became known as the Cold War. This war was not on a battlefield but was an ideological battle between communism and democracy.
Why did the US Become Involved in Korea?
The United States involvement in the Korean conflict was due primarily to domestic pressure as well as other factors that led the Truman administration to be more actively opposed to communism. The US decided to step into the conflict between North and South Korea to avoid the spread of communism using political, military and economic pressure. The concept of preventing the spread of communism in Asia was called the Domino Theory.
To promote democracy in South Korea, President Truman increased troop numbers in South Korea in 1950. It was believed that North Korea was acting aggressively to South Korea on the orders of the communist leaders in Moscow, headed by Joseph Stalin. The consequence of US intervention in South Korea remains that the US helped South Korea maintain its independence but denied South Korea a Cold War victory.
President Truman also encouraged US intervention in the Korean War because of continuing pressure on the Truman presidency and the Democratic party to be tougher on communism by the Republican party.
The Republican party put this pressure on the Democrats due to two specific Cold War events. The South Koreans produced their first atomic bomb in 1949, bringing military equality between the United States and South Korea.
Secondly, Mao Zedong and his communist followers won the Chinese Civil War. Republican leaders in the United States took Zedong’s success as the fall of China and promoted the concept that Truman was soft on communism.
Influenced by the threat of the spread of communism in Asia, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy accused various individuals in the US of being communist sympathizers, thereby promoting communist ideation in the US. While there was little proof that communists in the US were trying to take over the government, Americans supported McCarthy, leading to additional pressure on the Truman presidency to get tough against communism in North Korea.
US Support for Freedom in Korea
One of the ways the US showed their support of freedom in Korea was that the government supported Syngman Rhee. Rhee was a Korean politician who was very anti-communism.
Another way that the United States attempted to increase its cold war on communism was to support the Marshall plan, which gave 400 million dollars to undemocratic governments such as Greece and Turkey.
Why did America go to War with Korea?
Part of the reason the US went to war with Korea was due to protecting their economic interest that they had fought so hard to gain in Japan during World War II. Kennan identified Japan as one of the five world powers that needed to stay allied with the United States. To ally Japan to America, the US gave Japan $500 million a year to rebuild Japan and keep it as a non-communist ally, preventing the spread of communism in Asia. For the same reason, when North Korea attacked South Korea, the US gave South Korea support to prevent the spread of communism as well as to protect America’s interests in Asia. Reviving Japan served as a bulwark of support for the independent states in the south and northwest Asia.
The United Nations also resolved that when North Korea attacked South Korea was a breach of peace, calling the UN member nations to support South Korea and restore order to the area.