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United States war crimes in the Korean War

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The United States military carried out merciless bombing campaigns of both North and South Korea during the Korean War.

It was clearly the North Korean side that started the Korean War and this is reprehensible. However, considering the proportion of war crimes alone, there are six times more war crimes committed by anti-communist camps than war crimes committed by communist camps during the Korean War. A significant proportion of the war crimes committed by the anti-communist camps were committed by the United States.[1]

Indiscriminate bombing[edit]

The U.S. military dropped more bombs on Korea (635,000 tons), including napalm (32,557 tons), than were deployed during the entirety of the Pacific Theater of World War II.[2] These bombing campaigns turned Korea into what the head of the UN Korean Relief and Reconstruction Agency called "the most devastated land and its people the most destitute in the history of modern warfare."[3]

Operation Pressure Pump[edit]

On June 23, 1952, a U.S. aircraft bombed four of North Korea's most important dams and power plants. Bombings were carried out in Pyongyang on July 11 and July 12, 1952, in which a total of 697 tons of bombs were dropped, 62,000 rounds of ammunition were used, and 10,000 liters of napalm were dropped.[4]

In South Korea[edit]

Most of the U.S. war crimes were committed in North Korea, but some occurred in South Korea.

The U.S. military massacred South Korean refugees near the village of No Gun RiWikipedia from July 26 to 29, 1950. The death toll from the incident is at least 160 and up to 300. American veterans of the Korean War say that in late July 1950, in the conflict's first desperate weeks, U.S. troops killed a large number of South Korean refugees, many of them women and children, trapped beneath a bridge at a hamlet called No Gun Ri.[5]

The Bombardment of Sanseong-dong (산성동 폭격 사건) was an incident in which the U.S. military attacked the civilian area of Sanseong-dong (산성동), Yecheon-gunWikipedia. According to the victims, U.S. soldiers came in after the bombing and burned nearby villages. The incident killed 67 civilians in the U.S. bombing, but the property damage was much worse, which lost 69 homes and completely devastated the town itself. The incident occurred on 1951 January 19.[6]

The Bombardment of Danyang (단양 곡계굴 폭격 사건) is an incident in which refugees in Danyang-gunWikipedia were slaughtered due to indiscriminate bombing by the United States. The bombing killed at least 170 civilians, up to 360 civilians. The incident occurred on 1951 January 20, when South Korean, American and U.N. forces were being pushed back by North Korean and Chinese forces.[7]

Influence on modern Korean politics[edit]

Charles K. Armstrong of Columbia UniversityWikipedia pointed out the connection between modern North Korea's obsession with nuclear weapons and U.S. war crimes during the Korean War. According to Armstrong, anti-Americanism in North Korea was shaped by the United States bombing in the Korean War.[8]

South Koreans are also aware of U.S. war crimes, but most of them will focus more on the Japanese war crimesWikipedia during World War II. Anti-Americanism is a non-mainstream in South Korea as of the 2020s due to repeated threats from North Korea and China.

See also[edit]

  • Nuclear weapon - North Korea's nuclear weapons were largely influenced by U.S. war crimes during the Korean War.
  • World War II - Since the Korean War broke out only five years after the terrible war ended in 1945, Americans lose their head in the war.

External links[edit]


  1. Bruce Cumings (2010). The Korean War: A History
  2. Why do North Koreans hate us? One reason—they remember the Korean War. Mehdi Hasan. The Intercept.
  3. Marilyn B. Young, “Bombing Civilians: From the 20th to the 21st Centuries,” in Bombing Civilians: A 20th Century History ed. Marilyn B. Young and Yuki Tanaka (New York: The New Press, 2009), 160; Charles K. Armstrong, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 48.
  4. Jon Halliday, ‎Bruce Cumings (1990). Korea: The Unknown War
  6. 한국전쟁 55주년 특집 산성리 폭격의 진실 - 안동MBCWikipedia
  7. 1951년.. 그날은 내가 죽은날이야 / 단양 곡계굴 사건 / KBS청주 다큐멘터리 - KBS 충북Wikipedia
  8. Charles K. Armstrong (2013). Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992