The KPR, initially meant to be an interim government based in Pyongyang, developed into North Korea's government through fair elections. In American- controlled South Korea, the KPR government was not acknowledged. Thus, ironically, the Soviets allowed the Koreans to determine the future of their own state while the Americans did not grant the South Koreans the same freedom to choose a government. Kim Il-sung did create a police state in North Korea, but almost all North Koreans vastly preferred his government to one run by Japanese Koreans.

Also ironically, Syngman Rhee's regime in South Korea, accepted and supported by the US for its anti-communist bent, was no less repressive than Kim Il-sung's government. Far from a simple American puppet, the 77-year old Rhee became a diplomatic liability, for he was incredibly obsessed with conquering North Korea and unifying Korea under his leadership. In the example of Rhee's government can be seen the formulation of American strategic thought through much of the Cold War; the US saw communism as such a menace, that it was willing to overlook the fact that it was supporting non-democratic governments in its attempt to stop communist's spread.

It is also important to note the arbitrary division nature of division at the 38th Parallel. Not only did that line have no historical or cultural significance, it also led to economic difficulties: the North needed rice, available only in the South, and the South needed Northern manufactures. Separating the two economies, which had been linked under Japanese rule, lead to some discomfort.

From the events described above, it is hard to immediately see why the United States would come to the Southern Republic of Korea's rescue when the Communists invaded in 1950. Much of the rationale for the US action, however, can be traced back to memories of "appeasement", the policy by which Britain and the United States allowed Nazi Germany to expand in Europe. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, the US was now ready to go to war over any aggression by the USSR. It wasn't so much that Korea was strategically significant, it was simply that the US had to fight back as a symbol of American opposition to Communist aggression anywhere.

NSC-68 is a vital document in the history of the Korean War as well as the Cold War. According to NSC-68, primarily authored by Paul Nitze of the Policy Planning Staff, the Soviets were engaged in a rational, calculating, gradual plan to conquer the world. Thus, by the logic of NSC-68, a defeat for anti- communists anywhere was a defeat everywhere, with the very fate of Western Civilization at stake. The thinking inherent in NSC-68 explains the rapidity with which the US went to war after North Korea's invasion of South Korea. However, one also wonders if Stalin would have allowed Kim Il-sung to invade the ROK if he had known about the policies of NSC-68. A similar historical question centers on whether Secretary of State Dean Acheson's Press Club speech partially responsible for North Korea's invasion of South Korea? It is possible that in trying to express goodwill towards the newly Communist PRC, Acheson unwittingly provoked the attack on South Korea by giving the impression that South Korea was not vital to American security interests in the Far East.

In terms of the Cold War and the buildup of the American Military Industrial Complex, the Korean War provided major impetus. Before the war, Dean Acheson was afraid that the Truman Administration's recommendation to triple American military expenditure wouldn't pass Congress. With the Korean War, however, the policies of NSC-68 took precedence and the spending was carried out.

Popular pages: The Korean War (1950-1953)