News / USA

North Korea's War History is Mirror Opposite World View

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South Korea and the rest of the world this month are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.  Most of the world agrees on when that war started, and who started it.  But North Korea has its own, unique version of the story.

It was on June 25, 1950 that assault divisions of the North Korean army streaked across the 38th parallel that divides the Korean peninsula.  They captured Seoul within days.

South Korea, along with virtually every other nation on earth, recognizes that attack as the start of the three-year Korean War.  But Pyongyang sees it differently.

Yang Moo-jin, who is with the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, says North Korea calls it the 'Fatherland Liberation War.'  The North teaches its people that South Korea and the United States attacked the North first, he says.  North Korea says it had to respond to liberate the nation.

North Korean media have demonized U.S. soldiers for decades as aggressors.  But a scholar on North Korean propaganda at South Korea's Dongseo University, Brian Myers, says they did not originally blame America for starting the war.  "It was not actually until after the Korean War, until basically after the North Koreans were left back where they started, that they began to reinvent history," he said.

For a while, some historians lined up behind North Korea's claim that it was just defending itself.  Myers says that changed dramatically when the Iron Curtain fell.

"Revisionism has been widely discredited since the early 1990s, when Boris Yeltsin, who was then of course the leader of the Soviet Union / Russia made the old Soviet archives available to the West and to South Korea," he said. "And there we saw quite clearly that North Korea and the Soviets had actually planned the assault on the 25th of June together."  

North Korea has also never shared details with its people about the armistice that Pyongyang signed to halt the Korean War.  Instead, the North describes the 1953 cease of hostilities as a supreme victory for its military over the U.S. and South Korea.

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