How much do you know about the Korean War?

Torrance Grey

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Many people know very little about the Korean conflict, overshadowed as it is by both World War II and Vietnam. How much do you know about this devastating war? Find out now with our quiz.

What is the name of the indirect war the USSR and the US fought from the late 1940s through the 1980s?

On the ​surface, this question isn't about Korea. Except, of course, that the struggle between capitalism and communism has everything to do with what happened in Korea in the early 1950s.

In the United States, the Korean War is also called the _______ War.

Remember, the Korean War was first dubbed a "UN police action," not a war. Then, it never officially ended. It's not surprising that it hasn't captured a higher profile in the history books.

Which long-running, beloved television series was set in wartime Korea?

A witty, socially-conscious-but-not-preachy comedy, "M*A*SH" was one of the most-watched shows of the 1970s. It ran for eleven years, eight more than the Korean War itself, leading Mad Magazine to joke that "the pen really is mightier than the sword!"

A chief reason that the U.S. intervened in Korea was the idea that communism would spread from nation to nation if unchecked. What is this theory called?

The name is based on a visual: that of a line of dominoes falling, one after the other. Of course, the other famous metaphor about communism was that of a camel with its nose in a tent -- if not pushed back, pretty soon the camel will come further and further inside.

Which nation ruled Korea from 1910 to 1945?

From 1905 to 1910, Japan considered Korea a "protectorate." In 1910, it annexed the neighboring country entirely.

What was the Cairo Conference?

The Cairo Conference was held because it was becoming clear that the Allies would win in the Pacific theater. Allied leaders agreed that they did not wish to benefit from Japan's defeat, but did want to strip the nation of holdings seized by aggression. This meant that the Allied leaders decreed that Korea "shall be free" after Japan's defeat.

After 1945, a divided Korea was under the control of the United States and which country?

The Soviet Union was an American ally in WWII (the Cold War hadn't broken out yet). So, as a major world power, the USSR was a natural choice to co-administrate Korea.

For how long was the joint trusteeship supposed to last?

This was undoubtedly five years too long for most Koreans. They had already spent decades under Japan's control.

What was the name of the border between the two Koreas?

The border between the two Koreas was simply called the 38th Parallel. Today you'll also hear the phrase "the demilitarized zone," a buffer zone about two and a half miles wide to which neither side has ultimate rights.

Who became the leader of the Republic of Korea (South Korea)?

Rhee, elected president in 1948, was educated in the United States, including an M.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D.​ from Princeton. He was strongly anti-communist and considered by many to be a strongman.

Who became the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea?

Within a few years, both Koreas had their own leaders. Predictably, the USSR-influenced North chose a Communist, while the American-influenced South chose a pro-Western leader.

Who was president of the United States the year the Korean War began?

Truman took office after the death of FDR in 1945, and served through 1953. The middle initial, "S", in his name is just an initial -- it honors both his grandfathers, Solomon Young and Anderson Shipp Truman.

On what date in 1950 did the Korean People's Army invade the South?

On this day, soldiers from the North crossed the 38th Parallel. For a while, their advance into the South was virtually unchecked.

Who was the Soviet premier when the Korean War broke out?

Stalin has a fearsome legacy in the history books. His time in office saw great expansion for the USSR, but also famines due to food collectivization, and the disappearances and deaths of many purported "enemies of the state."

In which year did the Korean People's Army invade South Korea?

The Korean People's Army was the army of North Korea. There are some who believe that the South started aggressions, but there's no denying that the KPA came over the border and began steamrolling its way southward.

Many of North Korea's soldiers were battle-hardened by participation in what war?

The North Korean government had given supplies and soldiers to the Communists, who were eventually successful in defeating the Chinese Nationalists. As a byproduct, many North Korean soldiers were battle-ready when it came time to invade the South and try to reunify Korea.

Technically, the pro-Western forces in South Korea were under the command of which nation?

Technically, what happened in Korea was not a war but a "UN police action." Which is not a convincing argument when your country is full of soldiers, tanks, and artillery arrays.

The UN resolution to send troops to South Korea was called what?

It's not the most stirring name! In contrast, U.S. military actions have names like "Desert Storm" -- created by Pentagon think tanks in order to appeal to the public.

Why didn't the Soviet Union's UN delegates vote against Resolution 83?

The boycott was based on the fact that the UN did not acknowledge the new communist government of China. In solidarity, the USSR boycotted the United Nations -- and therefore did not vote on Resolution 83. It seems likely that the United States would have found a way to go to war in defense of South Korea anyway, but it didn't have to.

Which of these countries was not part of the UN "police action"?

Sixteen countries formed the UN coalition that sent troops to South Korea. Some of its constituents might surprise people today, who don't think of countries like Colombia as natural US allies. Nor is Thailand thought of as a military power -- but it sent approximately 1,300 soldiers to the effort.

What percentage of soldiers in the UN force were neither American nor South Korean?

When you look at the troop numbers, it's clear that the UN police action was a thinly-veiled American mission. While the largest number of soldiers were South Korean, Americans made up the highest number of non-Korean combatants, at approximately 300,000. The next-nearest number were 14,000 from Great Britain.

Shortly after the KPA invasion, South Korean forces only held a small territory on the southern peninsula. What was it called?

Western-allied forces held the tip of the peninsula, around Pusan, behind a 140-mile-long boundary. The rest of Korea had fallen to KPA forces.

Which famous general was brought in to turn the tide of the KPA invasion?

MacArthur wasn't always well-liked in Washington because of what some would call showboating behavior. However, both he and his father were awarded the Medal of Honor, the first father and son to do so.

MacArthur planned an amphibious landing at which Korean port city?

Inchon was a difficult target, with impassable mud flats at low tide and high seawalls. Nonetheless, the operation behind North Korean lines was a success.

To slow the advance of the KPA, South Korean forces blew up the Hangang Bridge over which river?

Unfortunately, several thousand refugees were crossing the bridge at the time. It's estimated that hundreds of them were killed.

Which Asian nation was the United States particularly anxious to protect in the early 1950s?

Japan had been a U.S. enemy in WWII. But since its surrender in 1945, Japan was an important capitalist power in East Asia, and the United States wanted to protect it from the spread of communism.

When did Gen. MacArthur restore the government of Syngman Rhee?

By late September, Seoul was once again in South Korean hands, and the Rhee government was restored. This was a mere three months after the KPA came over the 38th Parallel.

With South Korea restored, what did MacArthur's forces do next?

MacArthur felt certain that China would not act if UN forces attempted to take the North and unify Korea under capitalist rule. This isn't to say that MacArthur acted solely on his own initiative: a secret memo from the defense secretary gave him the go-ahead to cross into the North.

How did China respond when MacArthur's forces entered North Korea?

China entering the war shifted the balance back in North Korea's favor. It also emboldened the USSR, previously unwilling to get involved, to provide fighter jets and pilots.

Who won the Korean War?

The North and South declared a cease-fire, which has held for more than 50 years. But technically, the two nations are still at war.

In what year did hostilities cease?

After the combined Chinese and North Korean forces drove South Korean and UN troops back south, the war stretched on for three years, with the US regularly bombing North Korea in a "scorched earth" policy. Simple exhaustion with this state of affairs led to the armistice.

Which of these was a major issue preventing a peace treaty?

Did the majority of Koreans want Communism? That "hearts and minds" question is difficult to answer with certainty. On the one hand, Rhee massacred a great many Communists in the South. However, a number of North Korean soldiers did not want to go back to the Communist North after the war.

How many Americans were killed in the Korean War?

33,629 Americans were killed in three years of fighting. The figure was once listed at about 54,000, but this included all military deaths during that time period, even outside Korea. Revised to just reflect battle deaths in Korea, the number came out at the 33,000+ figure.

Approximately how many Koreans and Chinese were killed in the war?

Sadly and predictably, many of the Korean casualties were civilians. China, meanwhile, paid a high price in human lives for its support of ally North Korea.

What is/was No Gun Ri?

As many as 400 Korean civilians were killed by an air and ground attack near the village of No Gun Ri. The Associated Press broke the story in 1999 ("broke" meaning to the wider world; the incident was well known inside Korea). In a controversial move, U.S. troops were ordered at the time to fire on civilian refugees, because the KPA was disguising soldiers as refugees in order to get them close enough to attack.

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