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Causes of the Korean War: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Tammie Mihet

Tammie has taught elementary school for 14 yrs. and holds an MA in Instructional Technology

President Truman saw no other choice but to intervene and join a war whose start took many by surprise. In this lesson, discover what led to the Korean War, the first official war of the Cold War era.

Two Worldviews Clash

It was a fight based on two different worldviews. One worldview refers to the creation of a government elected by the people. We call this democracy. The other worldview refers to the creation of a government by one party that controls everything. We call this communism.

It was a fight that took many by surprise, and a fight that many thought was necessary to stop communism from overtaking the world. Welcome to the causes of the Korean War.

The End of World War II

To understand the reasons for the Korean War, we have to travel back in time to the end of World War II. One thing you must understand is that in every war, there are winners and losers.

In WWII, one of the losers was Japan. Two of the winners were the United States and the Soviet Union, which were part of the Allied forces that fought together against Japan. When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in 1945, they were forced to give up some of the territories they owned. Korea, which had been under Japanese control since 1910, was one of these territories.

Now that the Allies had control of Korea, what were they supposed to do with it?

The Division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea (arrows show the invasion of South Korea)
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Divide It

To understand why Korea was divided into two countries - North and South - you have to look back to World War II again. Because Japanese troops occupied Korea, the Soviets moved into Korea from the north, while the Americans moved in from the south. At the end of the war, it was decided that the Soviets would maintain control of northern Korea and the Americans would maintain control of southern Korea. This sharing of control was only supposed to be a temporary fix.

However, two worldviews were about to clash, and Korea was the land where the fight would take place!

Cold War

Remember the worldviews discussed previously? Communism and democracy are two worldviews that are opposite of each other. One puts the power into the hands of the government - this is communism. While the other puts the power into the hands of the people - this is democracy. The Soviets had a communist government, while the Americans had a democratic government. Can you see how this would cause a problem in Korea?

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