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US military evidence points to South Korean Responsibility for starting the Korean War, launching invasion against North Korea

While it is difficult to prove which side fired the first shots, US military and intelligence evidence suggests South Korean responsibility, whereas ‘evidence’ that North Korea started the war was met with scepticism by the US Army officials.


The History of the USSR & the Peoples’ Democracies

Chapter 18, Section 5 (C18S5) 


Saed T


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A July 1949 CIA report stated that several high-ranking South Korean officers were fanatically pushing for war against North Korea:

In a recent discussion concerning the defense of the Republic of Korea. CH’AE Pyung-tuk, Chief of Staff, Korean Army, stated that his interest in defensive plans is only secondary; his primary interest is in attacking North Korea as soon as possible. CH’AE and several staff officers spoke at length of the necessity of obtaining additional arms for the defense of South Korea, but admitted frankly that their personal intent is to establish an army sufficiently strong to invade North Korea before reinforcements from Manchuria and China bolster the North Korean People’s Army and security forces. (DESIRE OF HIGH-RANKING KOREAN ARMY OFFICERS FOR AN INVASION OF NORTH KOREA, CIA, July 7, 1949, p. 1) (IMG)

(…). As such, the United States deployed the KMAG to South Korea in order provide more training and logistics for the South Korean military:

[T]he Provisional Military Advisory Group established by MacArthur in August 1948 was redesignated in July 1949 the United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea (KMAG) and authorized 472 soldiers (‘The Korean War: The Outbreak, 27 June – 15 September 1950’, US Army Center for Military History, William J. Webb, September 20, 2012, p. 6, underline added) (IMG)

As early as November 1948:

South Korea [had] passed the Armed Forces Organization Act, which created a department of national defense. By March 1949 the South had converted its Constabulary brigades into an Army of 65,000 men assigned to eight tactical divisions – the 1st, 2d, 3d, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and Capital Divisions. In June 1950 the ROK armed forces consisted of the following: Army, 94,808; Coast Guard, 6,145; Air Force, 1,865; and National Police, 48,273. (‘The Korean War: The Outbreak, 27 June – 15 September 1950’, US Army Center for Military History, William J. Webb, September 20, 2012, p. 6, underline added) (IMG)

Up in the North, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea developed its military as well:

The North Korean People’s Army was officially activated in February 1948. (‘The Korean War: The Outbreak, 27 June – 15 September 1950’, US Army Center for Military History, William J. Webb, September 20, 2012, p. 7) (IMG)

Immediately, the USSR began supplying extensive military support for the Democratic People’s Republic in the North:

150 Soviets [advisors] were assigned to each division; the number dropped to 20 per division in 1949 and to a lesser number [of Soviet advisors] by 1950 as trusted North Korean officers were developed. By June 1950 the NKPA and the Border Constabulary numbered about 135,000. The primary tactical units consisted of eight full-strength infantry divisions of 11,000 men each, two more infantry divisions at half strength, a separate infantry regiment, a motorcycle-reconnaissance regiment, and an armored brigade. The NKPA benefited from some 20,000 North Koreans who were veterans of the Chinese civil war of the late 1940s, which gave its units a combat-hardened quality and efficiency. The Soviet Union supplied much of the materiel for the NKPA. Of primary importance was the T-34 medium tank, a mainstay of the Soviet armored force in World War II that weighed 32 tons and mounted an 85- mm. gun. The Soviets also supplied artillery support that resembled the weaponry of the older Soviet division of World War Il: 76-mm. and 122-mm. howitzers, 45-mm. antitank guns, and 82-mm. and 120-mm. mortars. At the outset of the war North Korea had about 180 Soviet aircraft-60 YAK trainers, 40 YAK fighters, 70 attack bombers, and 10 reconnaissance planes. Like the ROK Navy, the North Korean naval forces had only a few small vessels – sixteen patrol craft and several coastal steamers. (‘The Korean War: The Outbreak, 27 June – 15 September 1950’, US Army Center for Military History, William J. Webb, September 20, 2012, p. 7) (IMG)

The Democratic People’s Republic’s military expansion was for defensive purposes only. The Democratic People’s Republic had no intent on aggressing the fascist South. On July 27, 1949, the CIA reported:

North Korean military forces are at present deployed in depth in defense against a possible invasion by forces from South Korea. The 38th parallel itself is lightly held, with regimental reserves of the North Korean People’s Army held in an area twenty to thirty kilometers north of the border.

The reserves of two divisions of the People's Army charged with the defense of the 38th parallel are stationed from thirty to sixty miles north of the border. National reserves are being retained in the Hamhung (127-32, 39-54) and Nanam (129-41, 41-42) areas.

This defense plan has been prescribed by Soviet military advisers to the North Korean government.


(…). Indeed, only when the Americans would officially ‘leave’ the South was the South allowed invade the North. The Soviets and North Koreans made note of this:

I report the results of the investigation I have organized of the information about the preparation for the withdrawal of American troops and the preparations of the South Korean army for an attack on North Korea…. (Telegram from Shtykov on Preparations for an Attack on North Korea, Wilson Center, May 2, 1949) (IMG)


In September 1949, [General Shin] argued that the ROK Army was ready for war and had been waiting for a war. (Origins of the North Korean Garrison State: The People’s Army and the Korean War, Routledge, Youngjun Kim, 2018) (IMG)

Only two months later, the South Korean press published an article – which was reprinted by the CIA – titled ‘Hypothetical Invasion of North Korea’, describing South Korea’s plan for invading the north:

Many attempts have been made to effect the unification of North and South Korea, but all have failed miserably. The only way to erase the division at the 38th Parallel is the use of force. We, therefore, propose to discuss a hypothetical invasion of North Korea as follows:

First Stage – Occupation of Pyongyang in Three Days

Our crack troops can occupy Haeju the first day and then advance on Sariwon. Guarding the border in the Kangwondo area presents no problem because of the characteristic terrain of that territory.

(Hypothetical Invasion of North Korea, original source: Ibuk Tongsin, reprinted in CIA, date of information: December 1949, date of distribution: January 26, 1950, p. 1. Underline original. Bold added.) (IMG)

Wary of this fact, the North ramped up its defenses against what a January 1950 CIA report rightly called the ‘offensively minded South’:

The continuing southward movement of the expanding Korean People’s Army toward the thirty-eighth parallel probably constitutes a defensive measure to offset the growing strength of the offensively minded South Korean Army. (Korea: Troop Build Up, CIA, January 13, 1950, p. 11) (IMG)


On June 19th, 1950, John Foster Dulles traveled to South Korea and gave a historic speech, excerpts of which are as follows:

Already, the United States has twice intervened with armed might in defense of freedom…. (…). Today, the Korean people are in the front line of freedom, under conditions that are both dangerous and exciting. (…). The American people give you their support, both moral and material…. (Department of State Bulletin, The Korean Experiment in Representative Government Statement, John Foster Dulles Consultant to the Secretary, June 19, 1950, published in Department of State Bulleting, pp. 12-13. Underline added.) (IMG)

The significance of the speech is that it was timed to be approximately when the South Korean Regime, waiting for war, had placed its troops on the North Korean border. According to Webb:

In the early summer [i.e. the latter half of June] of 1950 four ROK divisions held positions along the 38th Parallel: the 1st, 6th, 7th, and 8th. (‘The Korean War: The Outbreak, 27 June – 15 September 1950’, US Army Center for Military History, William J. Webb, September 20, 2012, p. 6) (IMG)

The speech by Dulles was a ‘moral support’ for the South Korean troops that ‘with armed might’ were ‘in the frontline’ of the coming offensive war for the ‘defense of freedom’.

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out.

John Gunther was the biographer of General McArthur, the American Commander who would lead the Anglo-American forces during the Korean War. In his biography of McArthur, Gunther recalled:

Getting into the station and aboard the coaches hitched on to the regular north-bound train was a picturesque experience, because we used the special entrance reserved for the Emperor. A long, tattered, literally red carpet covered the underground passageway, and a covey of little Japanese officials in shabby uniforms bowed and scraped and squirmed as we climbed in. Two important members of the [US military] occupation [of Japan] were with us. Just before lunch at Nikko, and after we had visited a temple which is one of the most ornately spectacular sights in the world, one of these [important members of the US military occupation] was called unexpectedly to the telephone. He came back and whispered, ‘A big story has just broken. The South Koreans have attacked North Korea!’ (The Riddle of McArthur, 1951, John Gunther, p. 150. Bold added) (IMG)

The UN – which the imperialist press depicts as a ‘neutral’ ‘impartial’ body even though at the time, it was largely boycotted by the USSR and its allies, and overwhelmingly represented by countries and neo-colonies of the Western camp – was quick to blame North Korea as the aggressor. 

When the ‘news’ of the ‘North Korean invasion of the South’ emerged, even the US Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson doubted the accuracy of the report, believing that a North Korean invasion of the South was not imminent:

Returning to Washington, DC, on June 24, Johnson believed that things were going well in the Pacific [for the South Koreans who were going to invade the North]. At 10:00 p.m., a reporter asked Johnson if he had heard that forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) had attacked the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea). Johnson received a report about the invasion from a Pentagon duty officer but was unsure of its accuracy because Far East briefings had not suggested that such an attack was imminent. (The Encyclopedia of the Korean War, Spencer Tucker, Paul Pierpaoli, p. 383. Bold added) (IMG)

I shall remind that the South Korean press article titled ‘Hypothetical [South Korean] Invasion of North Korea’ called, first, for a takeover of the city of ‘Haeju the first day and then advance’ forward. On June 26, 1950, as planned, that is precisely what occurred. The South Korean Regime itself confessed that Haeju had been taken over by the South Korean Army. The US Far East Command agreed with this report. Despite believing that the South Korean and American report on the seizure of Haeju was incorrect, the military scholar Kim Jungsoo of the US Naval Postgraduate School nevertheless points out:

On 26 June 1950, the Defense Ministry of South Korea made a wrong announcement that Haeju was occupied by the South Korean Army and the United States Far East Command believed that the South Korean Army had taken Haeju on 28 June 1950. (THE PROACTIVE GRAND STRATEGY FOR CONSENSUAL AND PEACEFUL KOREAN UNIFICATION, Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California Thesis, published in: DTIC, Kim Jungsoo, March 2007, p. 12) (IMG)



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Statue of Soldiers, War Memorial Park – South Korea. Photo by Migration Mark on Flickr.