Facts and Fallacies – Politics and Economics

1. The Korean War and the Division into South and North Korea

Examples of Distortions
Russia: There was great tension between the two countries Syngman Rhee insisted on invasion of the North. There were numerous confrontation in the areas near the 38th Parallel and military activities were initiated on June 25, 1950. (Secondary School Social Studies for 11th graders, Modern History 1939-1992, Prosvichenie, 1993.) 

China: In the dawn of June 25th, the U.S. and the Rhee Syngman regime, after having made all the necessary war preparations started a large scale offensive against the North on all fronts along the 38th Parallel. (Dong Sheng Xu, Wei Li, Commentary on Contemporary International Issues, Social Science Documents Publishers, 1992.) 

There are two major contentions concerning the outbreak of the Korean War: the North invaded the South and the South invaded the North. The former postulates that the Korean War was started by an attack on the South by North Korea supported by the Soviet Union and China as part of a master plan to communize all of Asia. The latter postulates that the US and South Korea started the war jointly. 

All the evidence confirms that the invasion was begun by the North against the South, and this is now widely acknowledged and accepted as undeniable. 

The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950 as a result of an invasion of the South by North Korea, which was seeking to unify the entire Korean Peninsula under Communist rule. The all-out, preemptive attack had been carefully planned and prepared in advance. 

The circumstances at the time the war broke out clearly testify to that effect. On the day of the attack, only one-third of the South Korean Army was on duty because the rest had been given leaves of absence the day before to returned to their homes to help out in the peak farming season. Thus the South Korean Army as not able to properly defend Seoul and the city was seized in three days. In addition, there was a huge gap between the North and South Korean armies in size and number of weapons and equipment. At the time of the outbreak of the war, the North Korean army was twice the size of the South Korean Army. While the North Korean Army had one tank division and one air force division, the South Korean Army did not have either a single tank or a fighter plane; it was not only short of personnel but also lacked equipment. Under these poor conditions, the South was overwhelmed by the North. 

The fact that the invasion was led by the North is more clearly evidenced by documents captured from the North Korean Army during the war and the classified documents from that period that were recently delivered to the South Korean Government by the Russian Government. Example include Reconnaissance Order No.1 dated June 15, 1950 and issued by the General Staff of the North Korean Peoples Army to each division and Combat order No.1 dated June 22, 1950 issued by the Soviet Military Advisory Staff to each division through the General Staff of the North Korean Peoples Army. 

It is thus clear that the Korean War was caused by an attack from the North, and this is supported by the circumstances at the time of the outbreak of the war, the significant gap in the power and readiness of the North and South Korean armies at the time and disclosure of relevant documents by the former Communist countries after the collapse of the Cold War system.

2. The Description of Korea as a Country with Cheap Labor

Examples of Distortions
England: The economic miracle of Korea was based on cheap labor, and the cost of labor constituted only 8 percent of a companys average cost. Many worker earn 80 pounds a month which is not even the minimum wage level. (Secondary School Social Studies, Work, Employment and Development, Collins, 1994.) 

France: Social cost for the miracle is very high. Labor conditions are very poor. While work-related injuries frequently occur, legal protection is inadequate. Wages are low and work hours are long. (Secondary School Geography, Geographic, Nathan, 1995.) 

The wages of Korean workers have greatly increased since the late 80s. In fact, wages have increased so much that they are higher than those in competitor nations such as Taiwan or Hong Kong, although they are not as high as in developed nations. Considering the fact that increase in wages have surpassed productivity and have thus become a cause of weakened profitability and a loss of international competitiveness, the statement that Korea is a country with cheap labor is not correct. 

In Korea, the movement to improve labor conditions in the 60s and 70s reached a peak in the mid-80s. In 1987, there were a total of 3,749 labor disputes, 67.9 percent involving wages and 15 percent work conditions. At present the average monthly wages of a Korean worker has increased greatly and a 44-hour workweek is prescribed by the 1989 Labor Standards Act. 

Polish sources state that the work environment for Korean workers is harsh and describes the Korean people as workaholics. That description might have applied in the 60s, but now both the law and Labor Unions limit the number of work hours a week.

Published by the Korean Educational Development Institute 
- Editors: Yong Taik Sohn, Ph.D. (KEDI), Mr. Kwang Jae Kim (KEDI Research Assistant) 
- Editorial Consultant: Suzanna Samstag (Editor of Newsweek Korea),Robert Abraham (LG EDS Systems) 
- Writers: Yong-ha Shin, Ph.D. (Seoul National University), Ki Suk Lee, Ph.D. (Seoul National University),Yong Kyu Choi, Ph.D. (Korea National University of Education)ang Joon Nam, Ph.D. (Chungju University of Education) Bum Jik Lee, Ph.D. (Konkuk University), Jae Taik Yoo, Ph.D. (KEDI)- Reviewer: Won Soon Lee, Ph.D. (The National History Compilation Committee of the Republic of Korea),John Hee Lee, Ph.D. (The University of Seoul),Mr. Byong Yong Yoo (The Academy of Korean Studies),Wan Bom Lee, Ph.D. (The Academy of Korean Studies),Chan Hee Lee, Ph.D. (KEDI)

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