On the mainland, Mao and his successors saw Taiwan as a breakaway province and insisted that it must someday be reunited with China. Tensions between Taiwan and the mainland continued throughout the Cold War, but in recent years, trade and other links between the two have grown. Although few countries recognized Taiwan, it became an economic powerhouse in Asia and a center of computer technology.

The Two Koreas

In 1950, the Cold War erupted into a “shooting war” in Korea, a peninsula on the northeastern edge of Asia. The Korean War pitted UN forces, largely from the Western democracies, against communist North Korea, which was supported by the Soviet Union and China. It was a key event of the Cold War.

A Nation Divided

Korea was an independent kingdom until Japan annexed the country in 1910 and imposed a harsh regime. After Japan's defeat in World War II, Soviet and American forces agreed to divide Korea temporarily along the 38th parallel of latitude. American forces occupied the south, while the Soviets held the north.

During the Cold War, Korea's division—like Germany's—seemed to become permanent. North Korea, ruled by the dictator Kim Il Sung, became a communist ally of the Soviet Union.

In South Korea, the United States backed an authoritarian—but noncommunist—leader, Syngman Rhee. Each leader wanted to reunite the country—under his own rule.

The Korean War Begins

In June 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea and soon overran most of the peninsula. Backed by the UN, which condemned the invasion, the United States organized an international force to help South Korea.

UN forces, mostly Americans and South Koreans under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, fell back in the face of the North Korean advance. They took up a defensive line known as the Pusan Perimeter, holding their ground against repeated North Korean attacks. MacArthur then landed troops at Inch'on, behind enemy lines, and drove the invaders back across the 38th parallel. He continued to push northward toward the Yalu River on the border of China.

A map shows Korea during the Korean War, in the fall of 1950.
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War broke out in Korea in 1950. Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in an effort to reunite Korea. In the fall of 1950, who controlled most of the Korean Peninsula?


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments