The Impending Danger of the Korean War and Desire for Peace

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Wars have rarely been the solution to prejudices in the history of mankind. Yet wars have always been fought ruthlessly to quench the human desire of domination and power. The obsession to enforce one’s own ideology, and the need to prevail and survive have led to countless major military conflicts in the human history. Wars shape the future of human existence whatever their outcome. The Korean War, a war with many names, was one of the most brutal wars in the recent history impacting the lives of people globally and killing millions. An analysis of the war assists not only to understand the sequence of events but also helps in understanding its impact on the present world politics and future of human history. The David Rumsey map, “Pacific Stars and Stripes - Map of the (Korean) War” made by an American in San Francisco, California, is an outsider perspective depicting the sequence of events in the war whereas the “Combat POW map” is the viewpoint of a soldier of war later taken prisoner. The Combat POW map is a better depiction for understanding the Korean War as it not only relays the significant events of the war but also has the reader emotionally gripped by portraying the feelings of an actual soldier of war.

Wars are always horrific because of the impact they have on people locally as well as globally. In order to analyze the Korean War it is not only important to study the sequence of events as they happened but also to have a clear idea of the ideology behind the war with its impact on the people at that time and as it continues to effect the present time. The ideology behind Korean War was domination of communism in the Korean territory. North Korea and South Korea are separated by a border, the 38 parallel, with the North supporting communism and South Korea believing in democracy. The Korean War was triggered by the entry of North Korean forces into South Korea on June 25, 1950. Although both the maps clearly elucidate the date of the invasion but the Combat POW map indicates the general ideology of Koreans and major participants of the Korean War. The Pacific Stars and Stripe map does not highlight the ideology behind the war. Although the war started off as a civil war but due to involvement of other countries it has been marked by different names.

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The Americans call it the forgotten war, North Korean’s the War to liberate the Ancestral Land, South Korea the war that started on June 25, and China as the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea (Brown). Each country involved in the war had its own purpose of involvement. Kim II Sung of North Korea believed in communist rule for Korean peninsula. South Korea was against communist rule and Syngman Rhee would not have communist domination in South Korea. Therefore after the war started, Rhee “presided months of killing to wipeout those believed to have communist affiliations (Combat POW map). For US, it was a “limited war” where “U.S aim was not the complete and total defeat of the enemy, but rather the “limited” goal of protecting the South Korea … in order to avoid a third world war” (“Korean War Begins”). The main purpose of American involvement was “containment of communism” (Combat POW map) to prevent Chinese dominance in the region. However, President Truman tried to convince the international audience that “the US troops were in Korea for a U.N. police action” (Combat POW map). China was a supporter of communism, however, Kim II Sung was “impatient as Mao Zedong came close to unifying all China under the Communist regime (“Analysis: Conflict among Korean Nation”). The Russians “sought to impose absolute authority over the rest of the world” and thus Joseph Stalin “granted Kim II Sung permission to invade the United States supported Korea” (Combat POW map). The Pacific Stars and Stripes map of the War does not hold any information about the ideology behind the Korean War as it only relays the sequence of events of the military advancement. The sequence of events of the military advancement in Korean War is of importance from strategic point of view. This sequence is best given by the Pacific Stars and Stripes map of the war which elucidates every move with details of type and number of weaponry used.

The map gives details of different ammunition like “579 ton of bombs, rockets, napalm dropped” and “13 MIG 15 destroyed” by the UN forces. The map also gives details of materialistic damages to Suiho Dam and Red hydroelectric supply. However, this information is relayed factually and seems just numbers which project military supremacy. The information lacks the emotional and psychological trauma of the war as the troops faced “barbarians as trained, as relentless, as reckless of life, and as skilled in tactics … as the hordes of Genghis Khan … employing all the weapons of fear and terror” (Cumings 15). Therefore, the true depiction of the feelings of the soldier of war are not conveyed by the Pacific and Star Stripe map. The Combat POW map on the other hand emotionally grips the reader as the soldier states that they had no guns, bodies were everywhere, and only two buildings were standing at the end of the war. Although the map does not give the exact details of ammunition but informs that “the US used more bombs on Korea than in any other war”. Combat POW map gives an exact human toll as 4 million Chinese and Korean either killed or injured, 33,629 American killed, and 102,000 injured. Therefore the reader is deeply affected by the information in Combat POW map because it is detailed and relevant. Detailed and complete information in maps produce more impact than plain pictures and words. Although the Pacific Star and Stripes map shows the map of Korea depicting the course of the forces but there are a lot of facts which although relevant to the Korean War but are not explained. This leaves the reader to ponder over the usefulness of the information. The reader can deduce what this information might mean but it is not clearly stated.

The flags of different countries probably represents the countries or ideology relevant to the war. However, the exact role played by them is not elaborated upon. The flag of China is not included which may reflect the lack of knowledge of the cartographer or probably because the cartographer regards the role of China to be insignificant. The flag of UN is shown twice which may signify the importance of its role. The other flags could represent the different battalions of the military forces but need to be investigated by the reader for full understanding. There is no key to the map which could explain them. Combat POW map also uses symbolism to describe the involvement of different ideologies and countries but these are easy to understand. The black color represents US or death, red represents communists, blood, and anger, and blue represents South Korea for friendship and loyalty. The four big black arrows for Pyongyang, Hwanju, Sariwon, and Inchon are the key events of the war. These events are however detailed on the Pacific and Star Stripe map. Inchon is where X Corp carried a military operation on September 15, 1950 while Pyongyang, Hwanju, and Sariwon are places where the biggest air strike occurred on August 29, 1952. The Pacific and Star Stripe map shows one Communist plane which is represented by the red color but shows five U.S planes and three ships, in black suggesting the power of U.S. and its allies. The bubble with “Summer of Terror” in Combat POW map symbolizes cloud of terror and bloodshed of approximately 100,000 people. The line of distinction between North and South Korea represents the 38 parallel, now called the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) after the ceasefire. The ceasefire of Korean War was welcomed because it became a stalemate and there was a fear that it will culminate into World War III. The Pacific and Star Stripe map does not reveal information about the ceasefire. The impact of Korean War led to Dwight Eisenhower becoming US President in 1952 as America was tired of the dragging war (Combat POW map). General MacArthur was dismissed as he was prolonging the war and an armistice agreement was signed without any peacemaking. This resulted in the DMZ, which is the “most heavily guarded border in the world” (Combat POW map). The irony is that “no peace agreement has ever been signed, and so the peninsula remains in technical state of war” (Cumings 35). The Combat POW map is complete in this aspect as it also depicts the ceasefire of Korean War.

The perspective of the cartographer and their purpose impact the format of the map. The Pacific Stars and Stripes Map is an outsider's perspective depicting the factual events and strategic deployment of forces through the 3 years of war. The purpose of the maker was to give the timeline of events, mostly of United States or the United Nations. The Korean map was used to show the locations where the events occurred. On the contrary, the Combat POW map is a depiction of the war from inside perspective of a soldier. This map illustrates the emotions and psychological state of the soldier giving his account of suffering as soldier and a prisoner of war.

The Korean War is the most recent representation of human brutality against its own kind. Despite all human development and progress, mankind is overwhelmed by the desire to dominate and prevail upon others with their own thinking. This stubbornness has led to wars in the past and can always ignite one in future. There is an urgent need to learn from our mistakes of yesterday. Korean War which seems to be in suspended animation can always culminate in to something drastic and horrific. There is still time for us to heed and as the cartographer of Combat POW rightly says that “Let us not forget any longer.”

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