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The War Memorial of Korea

6 little known facts about the Korean War

Image: The War Memorial of Korea in Seoul | JEONGHYEON NOH /

Depending on where you grew up, the Korean War might not be something you’ve heard much about. Nearly five million lives were lost during the war and it’s estimated that almost half of its casualties were civilians.

Here are six little known facts you likely aren’t aware of:

1. The conflict was never officially declared as a war

Despite the name and nature of it, the Korean War was never actually declared as a war. Instead, it was officially classed as a ‘police action’. At the start of the conflict, President Truman never requested a declaration of war, and one wasn’t offered. So despite the brutal conflict that went on for those three years between 1950 and 1953, the Korean War wasn’t technically a war.

2. Frostbite was a major cause of injuries

As with most wars, conflict isn’t the only thing for the participants to worry about. Many soldiers aren’t injured by enemy fighters, but by natural risks that come with the climate and environment. In this case, frostbite was a major issue during the war, with temperatures going as low as -54°F.

Many soldiers also experienced trench foot, a painful condition that is caused by feet being wet for long periods of time. This made innovations like the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital so vital during the war, as casualties from conflict weren’t the only thing to be worried about.

3. The war is still going

The war lasted from June 1950 up until July 1953, when an armistice was signed after North Korea conceded. Officially there’s no conflict, but to this day there’s still a war between North Korea and South Korea.

The demilitarized zone (DMZ) was created for the safe return of prisoners from each country, and in 2018 it was used by leaders of both countries to discuss and work towards a treaty that could eventually end the conflict formally.

4. Seoul was captured four times

It’s not uncommon during a war to trade land with the opposition, and during those three years, Seoul was captured multiple times. As the capital, Seoul is located just 35 miles from the border between the North and South, making it an easy target for invasion.

Firstly it was captured by North Korea on 28th June, just three days after they crossed the border with their tanks. In September, the UN forces managed to retake it, only for it to be captured by Chinese forces in January of the following year. Just two months after that, it was reclaimed by South Korea.

5. Korea was ruled by Japan until the end of WWII

Up until the end of World War II, Japan ruled over Korea. Afterwards, the Soviet Union occupied the northern half of the land while the US occupied the south. The country was originally supposed to be kept as one, however, participants in the elections were not cooperative. When the time came, the Soviet Union did not comply with what was agreed upon and instead decided to install a communist regime with the leader Kim Il-Sung.

These actions are ultimately what led to the war as Kim and Syngman Rhee - who was elected president of South Korea - both wished to unify Korea with their own rule.

6. A special forces unit was created just for the war

The US didn’t have guerilla warfare capabilities before the war and one had to be created with a mix of different soldiers with unconventional experience. The unit was made up of rangers and other soldiers who had more experience in the field than their peers. The result was called the 8240th Army Unit and was used to advise forces on how to fight behind enemy lines and sabotage the opposition.