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North Korea, South Korea

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, 'Never get involved in a land war in Asia'
- The Princess Bride

Korea's history dates from 2333 BC, when the legendary King Tan-gun established the kingdom of Choson1. From that time, Korea was ruled by representatives of the 'Chosen Dynasty' and maintained its independence from other Asian kingdoms and empires, including the Mongols, Khitans and Manchus.

This lasted until 1910, when Korea was annexed by Japan, who placed the country under colonial rule and ended the Chosen Dynasty. The occupation of Korea lasted until Japan's defeat at the end of the Second World War. In the aftermath, Korea was partitioned by a line known as the '38th parallel', with Soviet forces occupying the north and US forces in the south. Korea was initially placed under the joint control of the USSR, the USA, Britain and China as a first step to unification, but the splitting of the country only hindered effects to create a single government. Eventually, two separate and idealogically separate countries were formed: the communist North Korea and democratic South Korea. The Soviet and US forces withdrew, although the superpowers maintained close relationships with their 'halves' of the new country.

I was born in '49

A cold war kid in McCarthy time

Stop 'em at the 38th Parallel

Blast those yellow reds to hell

'Leningrad' - Billy Joel

On 25 June, 1950, North Korean troops crossed over the 38th Parallel and into South Korea. The USA immediately responded to this action by deploying military and naval forces. Initially, the US forces, supported by the United Nations, pushed the North Koreans troops back towards their own country. However, the Chinese government were not prepared to watch UN forces fighting a war so close to their borders. After South Korean troops crossed into North Korea, the Chinese foreign minister, Chou En-lai, declared that China would defend North Korea if US troops crossed the 38th Parallel.

With UN approval, the US and allied forces crossed into North Korea. As promised, Chinese troops entered Korea and pushed the US back into South Korea and, in January 1951, captured the South Korean capital, Seoul. For the next 6 months, offensive followed counter-offensive, until eventually the US forces retook Seoul, and the Chinese and North Korean troops were forced back to the regions where the fighting had started a year ago.

By July, 1951, the fighting had stablised, with neither side making any advances. A first round of ceasefire talks was proposed by the USA and accepted by North Korea. A 'neutral sector' was created around Kaesong but was found by the US delegation to be full of North Korean troops. The peace talks stalled more than once over the following months until, in October, 1951, they were moved to Panmumjom.

[Master B - you may want to insert a link here from one piece to the other, depending on how you organize the Entries.]


[Master B - this piece is written to stand alone from the North Korea/South Korea piece. If you place the two together, you can probably lose most of the first paragraph.]

The Korean War had already lasted over a year and passed through one failed set of truce talks when, on 25 October, 1951, United Nations representatives (led by the USA) sat down with the Korean and Chinese military leader to talk peace in Panmunjom.

After two weeks of negotiations, a complete halt to all UN hostile activities was called by Supreme Commander General Ridgeway. This was followed by the declaration of the 'Little Armistice' on 26 November, with exchanging of prisoner-of-war lists by both sides. The armistice ended on 27 December, and a rejected UN proposal that repatriation of prisoners should be on a voluntary basis did little to help the process.

Despite the ongoing peace talks, the war dragged on throughout 1952. In May of that year, Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war began a series of riots at the allied POW camp on Koje Island. One month later, US troops were finally ordered to use force to quell the rioting, an act that the Soviet newspaper Pravda described as surpassing the acts of Hitler.

The truce talks had now reached an impasse over the repatriation of POWs, and the UN left the talks. 1952 ended with the introduction of a compromise truce plan by India, which was almost immediately rejected by China and North Korea.

In March of 1953, a change in the political climate was heralded by the death of Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Shortly afterwards, part of the UN proposals for repatriation of POWs was finally accepted, and an exchange programme for sick and wounded prisoners (the 'little switch') was put in place.

On 26 April, the peace talks at Panmunjom began again. Full agreement over the handling of POWs was eventually acheieved between the UN and China on 8 June. The following day, South Korea issued a statement rejecting the agreement, leading China and North Korea to launch a major military assault in the east of the country. Further to their rejection of the POW proposals, South Korea freed 28,000 prisoners to civilian life in South Korea. China and North Korea accused the UN of collaborating in the prisoner release and withdrew from the peace talks.

After direct intervention from the US commander, General Clark, peace talks were restarted without South Korea's involvement. After one final major offensive from the North, and with the backing of South Korea, a cease-fire agreement was finally signed on 27 July, 1953. The final exchange of prisoners that had proved so problematic to agree on(the 'big switch') began 9 days later.


Lebanon lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Israel and Syria. The modern republic of Lebanon dates from 1943, when it was granted independence from French administration under a mandate from the League of Nations.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Lebanon, and particularly its captial Beiruit, became bywords for the onging problems of the Middle East. Civil war between the Christian factions, who dominated the government, and a growing Muslim population broke out in 1975. Syria provided military support for the Christians, and Israel became involved, disputing with Syria over the Golan Heights, a stretch of land bordering all three countries.

Over the years, various Western forces attempted to restore power to the government, with little success. A number of high-profile kidnappings of Western Aid workers, religious envoys and peacekeepers meant that Lebanon was rarely out of the UK news. The civil war finally ended in 1990 and Lebanon continues to rebuild its shattered economy and unite the various political and military factions.

In the aftermath of the second World War and the beginnings of the Cold War, the Middle East found itself positioned between the USA and the USSR. With countries dividing into pro- and anti-Western groups, President Chamoun of Lebanon attempted to position his country as a neutral mediator between the two sides. His plan failed. After attacks from Egypt, Chamoun gradually altered Lebanon's foreign policy to align the country with the West and against the Communist Bloc.

During the 1956 Suez Crisis [Master B - need a link to 'Trouble in the Suez here], Chamoun refused to break off diplomatic relations with the UK and France. This led to increased pressure on Chamoun, both from outside Lebanon, and also from pro-Soviet factions within.

Trouble in Lebanon first flared when a newspaper editor who opposed Chamoun was murdered in Beiruit. Despite the lack of evidence, Chamoun was blamed for the murder and several major Lebanese cities were taken by armed rebel forces. It seemed that a stand-off would remain between the government and the rebels, until the political situation in the region suddenly changed. The government of Iraq, then one of the West's closest allies in the region, was overthrown and King Faisal killed. Fearing increased support for the rebels, President Chamoun asked the USA and UK for military support to quell the rebellion. On 14 July, 1958, President Eisenhower authorised the US Marines to enter Lebanon, issuing a statement that this was not an act of war, but to "...encourage the Lebanese government in defence of Lebanese sovereignty and integrity".

The first landing of Marines took place the next day. The startled troops were met on the beach by sunbathers, salesmen and other bystanders, who welcomed them, sold them soft drinks and helped them bring their equipment ashore. The Marines eventually cleared the civilians from the area and established a base from where they could advance on Beiruit. Carefully negotiating their way through roadblocks set up by the Lebanese army, the US forces took control of Beiruit, with strict orders to maintain the peace and only fire in self defence. Actions by rebel forces concentrated on harassment of the US troops, hoping to provoke them into an attack.

On 19 July, the Marines were joined by men from the US Army and, by the end of the month, had consolidated their position, the US commanders taking great care that their troops were seen as support for the Lebanese army, not an occupying force.

At the start of the military action, President Eisenhower dispatched US Secretary of State Robert D Murphy to Lebanon to oversee the political situation. Murphy was instrumental in bringing together the leaders of the various factions, assuring them that the intention of the USA was to protect Lebanese sovreignty rather than the office of any indivudual. On 31 July, a general election was held and the Lebanese Army Commander, General Chehab, was elected President. Although he did not take up full office until 23 September, the election of Chehab, seen as a neutral by all sides in the dispute, significantly stabilised the political situation within Lebanon and brought an end to the threat of all-out civil war.

The first withdrawal of US troops began on 14 August as a gesture of good faith. The final withdrawal was announced on 18 October and US forces had left the country by the end of that month.

1Literally meaning, 'Land of the Morning Calm'.

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