On June 25th, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea which began 67 years of unresolved conflict. The United States and South Korea have never declared the war to be over and an uneasy truce called the Korea Armistice has been simmering since July 1953. Korea was, by all accounts, a terrible conflict with more than 50,000 US troops killed, and 8000 missing. There were atrocities and mass executions committed by both North Korea and South Korea, as well as hundreds of thousands of civilians killed by conflict and starvation. (Author pictured below in South Korea, 1994.)
I have been reading some social media accounts that are arguing that North Korea is an innocent and non-aggressive victim of Western Imperialism. This is false. They are certainly not the maligned victim here, and in fact they have decades of violence perpetrated against South Korea and the United States, and well as being a force for world wide instability, primarily due to their nuclear weapons program.
This however is not an essay about the history of the Korean conflict, but rather my attempt to show the historical facts about North Korean aggression.
As of January 2011, North Korea has violated the armistice 221 times, including 26 military attacks. To be fair, there are some claims against them that are unverified, and some that are unverifiable. It is however, clear that since the signing of the Armistice, North Korea has been aggressive and dangerous, initiating unprovoked attacks against South Korea, China, and the United States, and actively attempting to infiltrate the Republic of Korea. Here is a sampling-
16 Feb 1958 North Korean agents hijack a South Korean airliner to Pyongyang en route from Pusan to Seoul
27 Apr 1965 Two North Korean MiG-17s attack a US EC-121 aircraft in the Sea of Japan
19 Jan 1967 ROKS Dangpo sunk by North Korea artillery
21 Jan 1968 North Koreans commandos attacked the South Korean Blue House – a 31 man detachment from the KPA secretly crossed the DMZ to assassinate the South Korean President nearly succeeding. Additionally, 26 South Koreans were killed and 66 were wounded, the majority of whom were soldiers and police officers. Three American soldiers were also killed and three were wounded
23 Jan 1968 USS Pueblo boarded and captured along with its crew by North Korean forces in the Sea of Japan. The entire crew of 83 is captured, with one sailor killed during the initial attack. The ship is still in possession of North Korea.
30 Oct 1968 – 2 Nov 1968 120 to 130 North Korean commandos land on the northeast shore of South Korea to establish a base in order wage guerrilla war against South Korea. Around 20 South Korean civilians, police and soldiers were killed.
Mar 1969 Six North Korean commandos kill a South Korean police officer near Jumnjin. Seven American soldiers are killed in a North Korean attack along the DMZ
15 Apr 1969 An EC-121, US reconnaissance plane is shot down 90 miles east of the North Korean coast, leaving 31 dead
Nov 1969 Four US soldiers are killed by North Koreans in the Demilitarized Zone. (A view looking North into DPRK along the DMZ. Picture taken by Daniel Cashman)
11 Dec 1969 North Korean agent Cho Ch’ang-hǔi hijacked a South Korean airliner
Jun 1970 The North Korean navy seizes a broadcast vessel from the South, 20 crew are captured
Feb 1974 Two South Korean fishing vessels are sunk and 30 crew detained by the North
1974 The first North Korean infiltration tunnel into ROK is discovered. Three following tunnels were found in 1975, 1978, 1990. The joint ROK-U.S. investigation team trip a North Korean booby-trap, killing one American and wounding 6 others
Mar 1975 The second North Korean infiltration tunnel is discovered
Jun 1976: An incursion south of the DMZ in Gangwon-do leaves three dead from the North and six from the South
18 Aug 1976: The Axe murder incident— an attempt to trim a tree in the Demilitarized Zone near Panmunjom— ends with two US soldiers dead and injuries to another four U.S. soldiers and five South Korean soldiers. Below is a picture of the Bridge of No Return, site of the incident. (Picture by Daniel Cashman)
Oct 1978 The third North Korean infiltration tunnel is discovered
Oct 1979 Three North Korean agents attempting to infiltrate the eastern sector of the DMZ are intercepted, killing one of the agents
May 1980 North Koreans engage OP Ouillette on the DMZ in a firefight. One North Korean wounded.
May 1982 Two North Korean infiltrators are spotted on the east coast, with one being killed.
1987 bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 – not confirmed to have been North Korea, but suspected.
(Picture below is Panmunjom. Taken by Daniel Cashman)
Mar 1990 The fourth North Korean infiltration tunnel is discovered, in what may be a total of seventeen tunnels in all.
May 1992 Three Northern soldiers in South Korean uniforms are killed at Gangwon-do; three South Korean soldiers are wounded.
17 Dec 1994 A US Army OH-58 helicopter is shot down. Of the crew of two, one dies and the other is held for 13 days. I was in South Korea at this time, and spent a day or two in a foxhole preparing to fend off North Korea attackers.
May 1995 North Korean forces fire on a South Korean fishing boat, killing three
Oct 1995 Two armed North Koreans are discovered at the Imjin River; one is killed
Apr 1996 Several hundred armed North Korean troops enter the Demilitarized Zone at the Joint Security Area and elsewhere on three occasions, in violation of the Korean armistice agreement.
May 1996 Seven Northern soldiers cross the Demilitarized Zone, but withdraw after warning shots are fired
May & June 1996 North Korean vessels twice cross the Northern Limit Line and have a several-hour standoff with the South Korean navy.
Apr 1997 Five North Korean soldiers cross the Demilitarized Zone in Cheolwon, Gangwon-do, and fire on South Korean positions
Jun 1997 Three North Korean vessels cross the Northern Limit Line and attack South Korean vessels two miles south of the line. On land, fourteen North Korean soldiers cross 70 m south of the center of the DMZ, leading to a 23-minute exchange of fire
Jul 1998 A dead North Korean frogman was found with paraphernalia on a beach south of the DMZ
Jun 1999 The First Battle of Yeonpyeong, a series of clashes between North and South Korean vessels, takes place in the Yellow Sea near the Northern Limit Line
2001 On twelve separate occasions, North Korean vessels cross the Northern Limit Line and then withdraw
29 Jun 2002 The second battle of Yeonpyeong leads to the deaths of six South Korean sailors and the sinking of a South Korean vessel. The number of North Koreans killed is unknown.
16 Nov 2002 South Korean forces fire warning shots on a Northern boat crossing the Northern Limit Line. The boat withdraws. The similar incident is repeated on 20 Nov 2002
19 Feb 2003 A North Korean fighter plane crosses seven miles south of the Northern Limit Line, and returns north after being intercepted by six South Korean planes.
26 May 2006 Two North Korean soldiers enter the DMZ and cross into South Korea. They return after South Korean soldiers fire warning shots
7 Oct 2006 South Korean soldiers fire warning shots after five North Korean soldiers cross briefly onto their side of the border
27 Jan 2010 North Korea fires artillery shells into the water near Baengnyeong Island and South Korean vessels return fire. Three days later, North Korea continued to fire artillery towards the area
26 Mar 2010 the 1,500-ton ROKS Cheonan with a crew of 104, sank off Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. Seoul said there was an explosion at the stern, and was investigating whether a torpedo attack was the cause. Out of 104 sailors, 46 died and 58 were rescued. South Korean President convened an emergency meeting of security officials and ordered the military to focus on rescuing the sailors. On 20 May 2010, a team of international researchers published results claiming that the sinking had been caused by a North Korean torpedo
29 Oct 2010 Two shots are fired from North Korea toward a South Korean post near Hwacheon and South Korean troops fire three shots in return.
23 Nov 2010 North Korea fired artillery at South Korea’s Greater Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea and South Korea returned fire. Two South Korean marines and two South Korean civilians were killed, six were seriously wounded, and ten were treated for minor injuries. About seventy South Korean houses were destroyed.
2011 it was revealed that North Korea abducted four high-ranking South Korean military officers in 1999
26 Feb 2014 South Korean defense officials claim that despite warnings a North Korean warship has repeatedly crossed into South Korean waters overnight
24 Mar 2014 a crashed North Korean drone was found near Paju, the on-board cameras contained pictures of the Blue House and military installations near the DMZ.
20 Aug 2015 North Korea fired a shell on the city of Yeoncheon
3 Jan 2016 South Korean soldiers fired warning shots at a suspected North Korean drone near the DMZ.
I also want to point out that they are classified as a rogue nation because of their hostility, instability, and pursuit of nuclear weapons. I don’t profess to know what the answer is, but I felt compelled to write something after seeing the falsehoods being described on the internet.
Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS(AOM), NCCAOM Dipl. Acupuncture