On 15 August 1945, at the end of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States divided Korea into two Occupation Zones along the 38th parallel. The north was administered by the Soviet Union, the south by the United States; by 1948 the north had become the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea under Kim Il Sung, while the south was the Republic of Korea under Syngman Rhee. Both sovereign states followed the political philosophy of their respective sponsors; neither recognized the permanent division of the country and both claimed to be the legitimate government of the whole of Korea. By June 1950 the north had created, with the support of the Soviet Union, a well-trained and equipped army of 130,000, organized in 10 divisions with a further 100,000 in reserve. On 25 June 1950, the leadership of the North ordered an attack on the Republic of South Korea, announcing in a radio broadcast an “Attack of National Defence” in order to defeat a planned offensive by the South. The Republic of Korea and its less well-equipped forces were taken completely by surprise. The UN Security Council sat in emergency session, which the Soviet Union boycotted, and called for an immediate end to hostilities. Meanwhile, the North Korean advance continued, and the South’s forces were overrun. The survivors fell back to a small area in the southwest, which became known as the Pusan Perimeter, where they held on until help organized by the United States and the United Nations could arrive.
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