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Korea, before 1950





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The Foreign Interventions_Stalin and USSR

Prior to the start of the Korean War, Stalin shared close relationship with Kim Il-Sung and many first-hand evidences prove his interest on the issue of Korean conflict. After Korea was liberated from Japanese control, USSR supported Kim as the leader of northern part of Korea who will establish communist dominated Korea, due to his reputation of being a former captain in the Soviet Red Army.[1] Some historians argue that the Korean War was a “hot war” for Stalin and Kim was “Stalin’s puppet,” who was ordered to start a war, yet this argument lacks its supporting evidence as documents from Soviet archives, which were released in 1992.

The documents prove that "Stalin considered this request [of starting a war] from Kim II Sung for nearly a year," and that "from March 1949 to January 1950, before he finally approved it, he said 'no' a number of times over the course of 1949.”[2] American academic Dr. Kathryn Weathers by, who was the first foreign historian to gain access to the Soviet archives, quotes that Stalin thought it was not “advisable” for North to engage in an offensive action towards South.[3] Moreover, Kim's former aide and translator Valentin Pak, says: "I saw many of the documents addressed to Kim and I can absolutely confirm that Stalin did not encourage.”[4] However, it does not seem that Stalin had absolutely no interest over North Korea’s invasion across the 38th parallel. It is reported that in the spring of 1949, during a meeting with Kim Il-Sung, Stalin spoke to Kim, “Are you short of arms? You must strike the Southerners in the teeth […] Strike them, strike them.”[5]

kim and stalin

Whether he wanted Kim Il-Sung to begin a war or not, Stalin clearly declared his willingness to aid Kim with his decision. This is proven by his letter to an officer name Shtykov – asking to relay a message to Stalin – as he wrote, “It is possible that Kim Il Sung needs our technical assistance and some number of Soviet specialists. We are ready to render this assistance.”[6] Nonetheless, he was not in hurry of this matter of invasion and the reason for Stalin’s hesitation seems to come from his concern over the United States. Historian and Korean PoW General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley tells that if Stalin thought that the Americans would intervene, “[he] wouldn't have allowed the war to be started at all.”[7] In fact, when Dean Acheson, a Secretary of United States, spoke to the National Press Club on January 12th, 1950 on the matter of American defensive perimeter in Asia, it appeared that Acheson left Korea out of the defensive line. Apparently Kim used this speech to persuade Stalin.[8] The exact reason for Stalin giving a firm permission to invade South is unclear. It could be due to the victory of the Communist China, or Soviet’s acquisition of the atomic bomb, as these two reinforced USSR's stage on the globe[9] Still, Stalin and USSR’s commitment on the origin of the Korean War was quite minor, comparing to that of Kim Il-Sung, and it seems that Stalin was not an initiator of the war, but he simply was “backing the Korean enterprise” and actually “distancing himself from any direct involvement.”[10]



Paul Lashmar, New Statesman & Society; 2/2/96, Vol.9 Issue 388, p24, 2p, 1bw




Goncharov, Sergei, Lewis, John and Xue Litai; Uncertain Partners, Stanford University Press, 1995, p.135

AVP RF, Fond 059a, Opis 5a, Delo 3, Papka 11, list 92, 01/30/1950

Paul Lashmar, New Statesman & Society; 2/2/96, Vol.9 Issue 388, p24, 2p, 1bw

Goncharov, Lewis and Xue Litai, 142. For a discussion of the Acheson speech, see Cumings, Origins, vol.2, chapter 13.

Dr. Evgeni Bajanov to the conference on "The Korean War, An assessment of the Historical Record," 24-25 July 1995, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C.

Goncharov, Sergei, Lewis, John and Xue Litai; Uncertain Partners, Stanford University Press, 1995, p.140

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