Carlton Meyer, “The United States Started the Korean War” (Tales of the American Empire, 11 June 2021)
Most histories on the Korean War (1950 – 1953) state that the war began when 75,000 North Korean soldiers crossed the 38th parallel which formed the border between North and South Korea to overrun the latter country. Only intervention by the United States and its allies in South Korea, so the story goes, saved South Korea from becoming Communist and reuniting with North Korea to form one Korean nation. In this short historical documentary, Meyer demonstrates with various sources and films and photographs of the period that the US wanted a war in the Korean peninsula to throw out Communist rule and install a new colonial government answerable to the US so that US corporations with business in the Korean peninsula could resume their operations and continue profiting at the expense of Korean workers and their families. In addition, US corporations had lost their business in China after the 1949 Communist Revolution in that country and were keen to get that business back. A war would give the US a chance of defeating the Communists in China and reinstalling Chiang Kaishek as China’s leader.
From there, Meyer goes into considerable detail into the lead-up to open warfare in the Korean peninsula in the late 1940s, including South Korean workers’ protests, strikes and rebellions against repressive rule by the South Korean government, backed by the US. US political and military leaders regarded South Korea as a convenient battleground on which to fight godless Communism. Americans were not too keen on helping South Korea recover from Japanese imperial rule and the devastation of World War II. The CIA secretly encouraged South Korean troops to cross the 38th parallel frequently and skirmish with North Korean troops in order to capture territory for Seoul. The US attitude created an environment in which South Korean harassment and even invasion of North Korean territory would lead to open warfare.
Meyer’s marshalling of his facts is good if quite fast, and viewers might need to run the film a few times to absorb the information. The actions of President Harry Truman in declaring war on North Korea without the approval of US Congress, in violation of the US Constitution, are to be noted. The film ends on a very dark note in which Meyer reels off statistics of millions of Koreans ending up as refugees or dead as a result of the three-year war.
If Meyer had gone a little slower in his narration, the film would obviously not seem rushed for those viewers not familiar with the Korean War. However this short film is clear in its aims: to show that the US had a clear agenda and interest in seeing a hot war erupting in the Korean peninsula, and did not care for Koreans, living in both North and South Korea, caught up in the crossfire.