By Dominic Oto

The North Korean regime hates the United States. Every day on North Korean news the Hermit Kingdom’s citizens are told Americans are imperialists, aggressors and hostile towards North Korea.

In school, North Korean children are taught that “cunning American dogs” want to kill them and eat them. To understand where and why this hate is coming from we need to back to the Korean War.

What happened in the Korean War?

After World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to split the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel. Kim Il Sung was installed as North Korea’s communist leader in 1948. In 1950 Kim tried to reunify the Korea peninsula by force.

The Northern forces pushed down the peninsula capturing Seoul. A highly trained and Soviet-equipped North Korean Army swarmed across the 38th parallel to attack unprepared South Korean defenders. Caught off guard, the North Koreans almost succeeded until the United Nations, American led troops made a surprise landing at Inchon. The Inchon landing was the plan of General Douglas MacArthur. The landing turned the tide of the war and cut off the North’s supply lines.

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The American led U.N. forces moved deep into North Korea, capturing Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. But the Chinese entered the war. Chinese communist troops crossed the North Korean border and pushed the U.N. forces back to where it all began, the 38th parallel. For the next two and a half years, neither side made any headway.

What happened next?

Finally, the U.N. and the Communists signed a ceasefire agreement on July 27, 1953. The guns of war finally fell silent after three years, one month and two days of war. Sadly, the two Koreas would have a troubled- and sometimes bloody- stalemate for decades after the actual fighting of the Korean War.

Most Americans have forgotten, or worse yet- never knew- that the three-year Korean War was a brutal and epic struggle. The United States casualties were 33,629 men killed and 103,284 wounded. Casualties among the 15 U.N. nations other than the United States was 17,260 killed and wounded.

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More than a million North and South Korean citizens died.  The South Korean Army had over 844,000 casualties. North Korean and Chinese casualties were estimated at over a million.

The village of Panmunjom in northern South Korea is the only contact point between the two Koreas. Panmunjom is the last border of the Cold War. The Demilitarized Zone, DMZ, is a frontline with an ongoing face-to-face since 1953. Panmunjom marks the separation of the two Koreas.   

What do the North Koreans think?

The Korean War devastated the peninsula. The North got the worst of the fighting. The U.S. dropped over 635,000 tons of bomb on North Korea during the war. This is compared to the Pacific theater in World War II, where the U.S. dropped 503,000 tons of bombs on Japanese targets. The bombs decimated the North. After bombing urban targets to rumble, the U.S. hit dams, flooding farmlands.

This devastation has, in part, fueled a fictional North Korean narrative. This mythological story of resiliency and tough attitude has kept the Kim dynasty in power for almost seven decades.

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North Korean propagandists have created a new and perverted history from the real events of the Korean War. The diabolical plot of the U.S. as a bloodthirsty aggressor is designed to keep the shock and horror of the war alive and the Kims in power.

According to the distorted version the North Korean believe, the South, backed by their imperialist U.S. allies, started the war. The Korean War is painted as a patriotic struggle for survival, fought against American invaders. North Koreans call it the “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War.”

The rogue regime has used the memory of the fictional Korean War story as a brilliant ideological tool. This reminder keeps North Korean citizens in constant fear of an imminent American attack. The narrative of American aggression is kept alive and is taught to school children.

When things escalate between the U.S. and North Korea, the North propaganda machine goes into overdrive. This unifies the North Koreans against the external threat of another U.S. backed invasion. The North Korean people see themselves in a struggle for survival “against the U.S. imperialists and South Korean warmongers.” For the North Koreans a war against America not merely a contest of beliefs, but a struggle of epic, even heroic proportions, pitting forces of light (North Korea) against darkness (the U.S. and South Korea). The fate of North Korean civilization itself seems to hang in the balance.

About the author:

Oto holds a BS in History from Oregon State University and a MMA in Military History from American Public University. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Company Commander and Staff Trainer to the Afghan National Army. He was wounded once and decorated three times. Oto is an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve.

For further information check out Frontline’s Special on the Secret State of North Korea

Frontline Special on the Secret State of North Korea