The Second Korean War (March to July 2003) was a resumtion of a military conflict between the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, and the United States. Japan declared war against North Korea and Japanese naval and air units engaged in combat. Other nations including Australia, Thailand, and the Philippians sent troops to fight in Korea. The war began on March 21st with North Korean commando and missile attacks, coupled with a massive invasion across the De-militzared Zone (DMZ). It ended with a cease-fire on July 1st following a coup against Kim Jong-IL.

Following the armistice at the end of the First Korean War in 1953, Korea remained divided. The communist north was supported by the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union. South Korea was supported by the United States which kept troops in the country as a deterrent to any future aggression by the north. The end of the Cold War saw the loss of support from the USSR to North Korea. Throughout the 1990s North Korea suffered from famine and had shortages of fuel. Isolated with little support from China, the North came under international rebuke when the DPRK once again began work on nuclear weapons in 2003.

Kim Jong-IL leader of North Korea saw the threats of economic sanctions and the movement of U.S. forces to Asia as casus belli. It was also believed by the North Korean leadership that the coming war against Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) would leave the U.S. unable to reinforce South Korea. Kim saw this as a chance to correct the mistake his father made in 1991 during the First Gulf War. North Korea began mobilization in late February and by time of the U.S. offensive in Iraq was ready to attack.

North Korea made early gains but the Republic of Korea Army and the U.S. forces in the country were able to hold the North Koreans, and push them back across the DMZ. As the war in Iraq continued the Bush Administration decided to shift their focus to Asia. Operations were put on hold in Iraq with U.S. and Coalition forces stopping on the Euphrates River. Following a UN Resolution, the U.S. and several other nations sent forces to South Korea to build up a force to invade North Korea and remove Kim Jong-IL from power.

The Allied invasion began on April 30th with massive air attacks against the DPRK. Ground forces advanced taking Kaesong, Wonsan, and the roads leading to Pyongyang. North Korean efforts to stop the invasion failed. All economic and fuel aid to the north was cut off by China. By late June the Allied forces were advancing on the North Korean capital. In a desperate bid to stop the assault Kim Jong-IL ordered the use of chemical weapons on U.S. troops. The WMD attack prompted a U.S. threat to use nuclear weapons. Kim threatened to continue chemical attacks including ones against Japanese and South Korean cities. President Bush was getting ready to order a nuclear attack against North Korea when a coup against Kim Jong-Il was launched by Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun. It succeeded and Kim was removed from power.

Paek negotiated a ceasefire through China with the Allied forces. The end of the war saw the occupation of a significant portion of North Korea. Eventually the two Koreas were reunited over a period of ten years. Kim Jong-Il was tried for crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. He was executed on August 4, 2010.


The end of the Korean War in July of 1953 saw the two Koreas roughly divided where they had been before. A de-militarized zone (DMZ) was established between the two countries and patrol by U.S., South Korean, and North Korean forces. Despite the armistice between the warning powers, no official peace treaty was ever signed. As a result the United States and North Korea remained technically at war with one another. Throughout the Cold War and even after, the North Koreas would violate the DMZ with small groups and conduct various raids against U.S. and ROK forces on their side of border.

Korean dmz map

The Korean DMZ is shown in red with the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) denoted by the black line.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, North Korea lost its primary source of economic and military aid. While the Peoples Republic of China would continue to support North Korea, the country’s planned economy was suffering. Meanwhile the 1990s saw South Korea transformed into a democracy and economically booming. The death of North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung and his replacement by his son Kim Jong-Il saw a start of new relations among the two countries. South Korea announced a new Sunshine Policy which encouraged relations and economic contacts between the ROK and DPRK.

However efforts to improve relations with North Korea would be handicapped by the North’s continued martial policies and erratic behavior. In 1992 North Korea had signed the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation and the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In the hopes of ensuring a de-nuclearfied peninsula the U.S. followed the DPRK signing by removing tactical nuclear weapons that had been in South Korea since the Cold War. Despite the North’s signature it proved difficult establishing an inspection program. By 1993 North Korea was refusing to allow inspections of its nuclear program. A diplomatic quagmire continued for most of the year.

Tensions were raised in 1994 when North Korea threatened to launch a war with the United Nations imposed sanctions on the regime. The threat was considered serious enough for the U.S. to increase the scope of its military exercises with the Republic of Korea Army. Senator John McCain even purposed attacking North Korea’s nuclear sites if necessary. Although the year saw heightened tensions between the two powers an Agreed Framework was signed between the U.S. and North Korea in Geneva in October. A showdown over the North’s nuclear ambitions had been avoided.

The Axis of Evil (2002)

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