KPop Academy Week 5: Korean History and Korean War.

Monday, 24 March 2014

I arrived at the Korean Cultural Centre a good 15 minutes before the class started and was able to chat around with a few people. As expected, the subject of the B.A.P concert and ticket prices came up but like me nobody's got tickets yet. Not sure if I'll be going though. So much for all the excitement of finally attending my first ever KPop concert and having a glimpse of Daehyun.

At 2pm we proceeded to the hall and after a recap of last week and looking at our assignments (My G-Dragon assignment was shown and I said a few words about it), we were introduced to Brigadier Brian Parritt of the British Army. He was there to give us a talk about his experience in the Korean War between 1950-1953. I'll try and tell you guys as much as I remember from the talk.

Photo Credits: KCCUK

The Talk

Korea was under ruthless total domination by the Japanese occupation which led a lot of people to defect or fled to China,Russia and other neighbouring countries. Those who went to china joined the military while a specialist unit was created for those who went to Russia.

The end of WW2 saw the presence of Russia and America in Korea in the name of trusteeship and handling of the provision of temporary government, American administrators divided the peninsula along the 38th Parallel, with U.S military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half. Russia refused to co-operate in a free and fair election, instead thy created a communist state and put Kim Il-Sung in charge as prime minister. America decided to enforce right wing government in the south and elected Dr Syngman Rhee as the first President.

The north were provided with heavy weapons and military assets by the Soviet Union, but America decided to only follow a peaceful approach and demanded the military assets which excluded heavy weapons they provide the south only be used for preserving internal orders and self-defense.

At 4am on Sunday 25th June 1950, North Koreans invaded the south, the attack was unexpected to a degree. South Korea at the time had bad intelligence from their security division. This was the beginning of the ongoing civil war in Korea. When the problem in Korea kept getting out of hand with lack of trust between the Russia and the U.S, the U.S took the case to the U.N, however Russia boycotted every decision using it's veto power in the Security Council. That was when the UN army was sent to help South Korea. 

North Koreans had occupied Seoul at this point and the government had fled to Pusan establishing a temporary station there. They created a defensive perimeter along Naktong Bulge against the North which was controlled by the U.N command. A series of battle ensued with the last one where about 700 north Korean special forces were sent to capture Pusan but were defeated by the U.S military forces. It is said that if North Korea had succeeded in occupying Pusan it would have had a very significant effect on the course of the war.

P.S: Just as side note, I'd like to mention the importance of the 38th Parallel which was the line that divided the North and South. That was were the north Korean troops first encountered south Korean troops and defeated them at the border to gain entry.

After the success of the U.S at battle of Pusan, they slowly regained back south Korea and fought all the way over the 38th parallel defeating North Korea. The north's army was overpowered, the war was over. the south conquered all the way to the border of china, "China will and cannot interfere", or so they thought. They were unprepared for what happened next. On 25 October 1950, china's army's ambush completely took them by surprise. They were strong and fully resourced and when the U.S and U.N retaliated, they lost so much assets and artillery than they did in WW2.

The war continued for the next few years mostly between China's army and Volunteer army and the U.N forces. After so much battle, people realized that military action was not going to solve the issue. Prisoners of War were held for propaganda and a lot of the officials made the war personal making decisions for their own propaganda at the expense of the people in Korea. The war was dubbed " Strange War " or " The Forgotten War ". 
"The Korean people suffered terribly. They knew what living under communism meant and they tried to escape to the south. Regardless of the hardship and loss they encountered, they maintained their sense of family, pride and dignity."
Afterwards, Brigadier Parritt showed us a few pictures and told us short stories about them, some were sad and some were funny. I found that they depict the time of war which was both sad but included happy moments amidst all the pain. He told us about the Korean soldiers that were in his unit, how they developed a sense of brotherhood with each other and looked out for each other. War definitely brought them closer. They used a lot of South Korean spies for obvious reasons (they blend in more), we got to see a picture of one of the spies (You wouldn't have guessed he was a spy).

Question Time

Photo Credits: KCCUK

We got to ask him questions and a lot of interesting ones too like the possibility of the unification of Korea. I asked him

  • When you think of the war, is there a memory that is more distinct from the others? to which he talked briefly about fighting for a worthwhile cause.
  • How did you communicate with the North Koreans, assuming you do not speak Korean nor they English? It was a bit difficult for them but they picked up some of the words along the line e.g Kimchi, Maekju and so on.

Afterwards, we were each given a copy of his book and which he happily signed for us.

The Film

We then took a short break, returned for a screening of the war movie THE FRONT LINE  which was about the events leading up to the ceasefire at the end of the war. It was surreal watching about the events we just heard about. Seeing it on video made it all the more saddening, seeing the soldiers fighting a battle they did not fully understand. It showed the events leading up to the battle that ensued 12 hours before the official ceasefire. 
I'll stop here before I spill it all, but I assure you it is worth a watch. I warn you though, it is saddening.

Afterwards, we found out an interesting fact about the coordinator, she was in the military for 3 years. Now that got us intrigued and we asked her a lot of questions. We then headed to have a burrito cos lil me has never had one (you can gasp, I got a lot of those already), unfortunately the restaurant was busy so we went to Assa instead. After dinner, it was bubble tea at Cuppacha and then checking out a store that sold Korean makeup and Kpop merchandise.

It was a perfect end to the day :) if you managed to read until here, Thank you :) I tried to tell you as much as I can remember. I hope you enjoyed the brief history on the Korean War. You can check wikipedia for a comprehensive recount of what happened including dates and prominent figures.


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