Most Americans don’t know much about the Korean War, but it was an important chapter in US history and remains important today. From Brett Wilkins at antiwar.com:
For a brief moment in the summer of 1945 there was joy in Korea. Koreans, who had suffered tremendously during half a century of brutal Japanese occupation and World War II, celebrated what they believed was their liberation by victorious US and Soviet forces. Full of hope for a future free of foreign rule, they proudly declared their independence; however, Supreme Allied Commander Douglas MacArthur announced that the US and the USSR would be occupying – and dividing – the entire Korean peninsula. Adding insult to injury, vanquished but no less vicious Japanese forces would be employed to violently repress dissent.
Like so many other imperial endeavors, the division of Korea along the 38th parallel was an exercise in arbitrariness and utter disregard for the wishes of the people it affected. The United States, which claimed to champion freedom, denied it to the people of Korea, who very quickly realized that they were merely trading one occupying empire for another. A survey of Koreans in the summer of 1946 found that 77 percent preferred socialism or communism while only 14 percent favored capitalism. However, the US backed the right-wing dictatorship of Syngman Rhee, a conservative Christian and staunch anti-communist who ruled the South with an iron fist. By early 1950 there were more than 100,000 political prisoners in the South. Summary executionsof leftists, both real and imagined, claimed tens of thousands of lives as the South’s police state reign of terror rivaled the worst outrages of the communist North, which was unifying under the former anti-Japanese guerrilla leader Kim Il-sung.