At the end of the Second World War, Korea – which had formerly been occupied by the Japanese – was divided along the 38th Parallel. This was an internal border between North and South Korea based on a circle of latitude.

Uniforms and insignia

The Korean People's Army is established

Uniforms and insignia

The Korean People's Army is established

The North soon fell under the influence of the Soviet Union whilst the South relied on the support of the Americans. The Korean People's Army (KPA) was established in North Korea in February 1948, from Korean communist guerrillas who had previously served with the Chinese People's Liberation Army, but were 'advised' by Soviet personnel. By mid-1950 the KPA was composed of ten infantry divisions plus other units totalling some 223,000 men.

Photographs

Invasion of South Korea

Photographs

Invasion of South Korea

On 25 June 1950 the KPA invaded South Korea and rapidly advanced southwards trapping South Korean and American troops in a small perimeter around the port of Pusan. The United Nations was quick to respond and immediately encouraged its members to support the South. Many countries sent in troops, including the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

Walking along a typical hillside trench is Private Jack Crawford of Company A, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
© IWM (MH 31539)
Photographs

Landings at Inchon

Photographs

Landings at Inchon

The United Nations commander General MacArthur ordered an amphibious landing at Inchon, a port halfway up the Korea peninsula. His forces were able to drive the KPA back into the North and up to the Yalu River, the border between China and North Korea.

Photographs

Entry of China

Photographs

Entry of China

At this point China entered the war and again pushed United Nations forces back into the South. During the first half of 1951 fighting stalled and armistice negotiations began in July. However, the negotiations achieved little initial success and the opposing armies continued to face each other in trenches little more than a mile apart for the next two years.

Photographs

Armistice

Photographs

Armistice

Finally, on 27 July 1953, an armistice was signed agreeing that Korea would remain a divided country.

Explore our collection

Uniforms and insignia
badge, formation, United Nations
Uniforms and insignia
Boots, winter: Chinese
Souvenirs and ephemera
Cigarette packet
Weapons and ammunition
Browning M1919A4
Weapons and ammunition
Type 50
Souvenirs and ephemera
scarf
Decorations and awards
Korea Medal (1950-1953)
Vehicles, aircraft and ships

Not forgetting the largest object in our collection...

Vehicles, aircraft and ships

Not forgetting the largest object in our collection...

HMS Belfast spent more than 400 days on patrol during the Korean War, steaming over 80,000 miles. In winter, sea conditions reminded her crew of those she had faced in the Arctic – sub-zero temperatures, ice floes, stormy seas and snow.

Ron Yardley - HMS Belfast Veteran

Ron Yardley - HMS Belfast Veteran

Ron Yardley joined HMS Belfast as she prepared to travel around the world to fight in the Korean War. Ron remembers the maze of ladders and corridors of the ship and the power of her forward guns when she went into action.

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