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The Korean War: A Bibliography of Wilson Center Publications

A bibliography of all Wilson Center publications related to the Korean War – from issues of the Cold War International History Project Bulletin and Working Paper series to blog posts appearing on Sources & Methods and audio and video interviews.

Military Demarcation Line (MDL) at Panmunjom
A placard for the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in the woods near Panmunjom, Korea.

Since the early 1990s, the Cold War International History Project and, later, the North Korea International Documentation Project have published hundreds of documents about the Korean War from Russian, Chinese, and other Eastern Bloc archives, as well as scores of scholarly analyses of these sources.

On the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, we have compiled a bibliography of all Wilson Center publications related to the conflict – from early entries in the Cold War International History Project Bulletin and Working Paper series to blog posts appearing more recently on Sources & Methods.

 

The Sino-Soviet Alliance and China’s Entry into the Korean War

CWIHP Working Paper #1 (June 1992)

Chen Jian sheds light on (1) the making of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, (2) the connection between the Sino-Soviet alliance and the outbreak of the Korean War, and (3) contacts between China and the Soviet Union as CCP leadership made its final decision to enter the Korean War in October 1950.

Soviet Aims in Korea and the Origins of the Korean War, 1945-1950: New Evidence from Russian Archives

CWIHP Working Paper #8 (November 1993)

Kathryn Weathersby utilizes the newly opened Soviet Foreign Ministry and Communist Party archives to argue that Stalin did not seek control over the entire Korean Peninsula from February 1945 through April 1950. Weathersby further argues that the initiative for the Korean War came from Kim Il Sung, and Stalin only acquiesced after repeated requests by Kim and after being persuaded that the United States would not intervene.

New Findings on the Korean War: Translation and Commentary by Kathryn Weathersby

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 3 (Fall 1993): 1, 14-18.

Kathryn Weathersby introduces a 1966 document compiled by unidentified members of the staff of the Soviet Foreign Ministry Archive on Soviet and Chinese involvement in the Korean War. The apparent purpose of the internal history was to provide background information for the small group of Soviet officials who were at that time engaged in discussions with the People’s Republic of China and North Vietnam over possible Soviet assistance to the Viet Cong in their war with the United States.

Letters: Stalin, Kim, and Korean War Origins

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 4 (Fall 1994): 21.

Adam B. Ulam questioned Kathryn Weathersby's argument that the initiative for the invasion of South Korea in 1950 came from the North Korean regime, rather than from Stalin. Weathersby responded that it was Kim Il Sung who appealed to Stalin to grant him permission to launch a military campaign to reunify the Korean peninsula by force.

Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War, 1950 – Clarifications

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 4 (Fall 1994): 60-61.

Additional Russian documents reveal the interplay between Stalin and Mao as Kim Il sung sought Beijing’s approval for an invasion of South Korea. The first document is a coded telegram sent to Moscow on the night of 13 May, 1950 from the Soviet Embassy in Beijing. It relayed a request from Mao, conveyed via Chinese Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai, seeking Stalin's "personal clarifications" of his stand on a potential North Korean action to reunify the country. The second document, a coded telegram from Moscow to Beijing, contained Stalin's personal response using the code name "Filippov".

Korea, 1949-50: To Attack, or Not to Attack? Stalin, Kim Il Sung, and the Prelude to War

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 5 (Spring 1995): 2-9.

Kathryn Weathersby offers a small sample of the Korean War evidence that Boris Yeltsin presented to President Kim Young-Sam of South Korea in 1994 in order to assess when, how, and by whom the decision was made to launch a military assault on South Korea.

Stalin's Conversations with Chinese Leaders: Talks With Mao Zedong, December 1949-January 1950, and With Zhou Enlai, August-September 1952

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 4-29.

This issue leads off with translations of five meetings between Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and the top leaders of the newly-created People's Republic of China between 1949 and 1952. Among those conversations, three transcripts in Moscow between Stalin and Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in August-September 1952 discussed the ongoing Korean War. Chen Jian, Vojtech Mastny, Odd Arne Westad, and Vladislav M. Zubok made commentaries about the documents.

New Russian Documents on the Korean War

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 30-84.

Kathryn Weathersby presents translations of and commentary on a sizable portion of recently-released documents on the Korean War from the Russian Presidential Archives. Many were dated February 1950 through January 1951, providing a close look at the Soviet Union’s role during the first months of the war.

China’s Road to the Korean War

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 41, 85-86.

Chen Jian examines the historiography behind China’s entrance into the Korean War. Many scholars in the 1980s, Chen writes, began to stress that Beijing decided to enter the because of imminent threats to the physical security of Chinese territory. However, Chen found new Chinese sources that enabled him to retrace China’s path to the war, which is further explained in his book “China’s Road to the Korean War: The Making of the Sino-American Confrontation” (1994).

Assessing the Politics of the Korean War, 1949-51

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 54, 87-91

Evgueni Bajanov shows the political evolution of the three communist governments in Korea based on the recently declassified Soviet archives and examines the political line of Moscow as well as of its allies.

The Shtykov Diaries: New Evidence on Soviet Policy in Korea

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 69, 92-93.

Hyun-su Jeon and Gyoo Kahng introduce the diaries of Gen. Terentii Fomich Shtykov, who played a key role in planning and executing Soviet foreign policy in Korea. Shtykov kept personal diaries while participating in the founding of the North Korean regime. They provide a candid and vivid picture of the Soviet occupation.

Stalin, Mao, Kim and China’s decision to Enter the Korean War, September 16-October 15, 1950: New Evidence from the Russian Archives

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 94-119.

Alexandre Y. Mansourov introduces and analyzes a selection of newly declassified documents from the Russian archives from the Incheon landing on 16 September 1950 up until mid-October 1950, when the PRC decided to send troops to Korea. The ciphered telegrams reveal the atmosphere of mutual finger-pointing which reigned in the offices of the Soviet, North Korean, and Chinese decision-makers after the Incheon landing. They also reveal the confusing atmosphere that permeated relations between the Soviet and Chinese leaders regarding the military-strategic significance of the Incheon landing.

Bruce Cumings and Kathryn Weathersby: An Exchange on Korean War Origins

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 120-122.

Bruce Cumings criticizes Kathryn Weathersby for excessively depending on American and Soviet archival documents on the Korean War, rather than Korean documents. Weathersby responds that Cumings attempts to downplay the significance of the Russian archives.

Soviet Interrogation of U.S. POWs in the Korean War

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996): 123-125.

Laurence Jolidon states that the extensive involvement of Soviet intelligence in the interrogation of American prisoners throughout the Korean War has been revealed through a trove of long-secret military documents unearthed by the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on missing Americans in the former Soviet Union.

The Discrepancy between the Russian and Chinese Versions of Mao’s 2 October 1950 Message to Stalin on Chinese Entry into the Korean War: A Chinese Scholar’s Reply

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 8-9 (Winter 1996): 237-242.

A sharply different version of Mao's October 2 message to Stalin emerged in the Russian archives. According to the Russian version, Beijing had tentatively decided against entering the war. In Bulletin Issue 6-7, Russian scholar Alexandre Mansourov questioned the accuracy and even authenticity of the Chinese version of the October 2 telegram. Chinese historian Shen Zhihua offers his perspective on the discrepancy.

Deceiving the Deceivers: Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang, and the Allegations of Bacteriological Weapons Use in Korea

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 11 (Winter 1998): 176-185.

Kathryn Weathersby presents new evidence on the allegations that the US used bacteriological weapons during the Korean War. The documents were first obtained and published by Japanese newspaper. This commentary examines the context of these documents, discussing what they reveal about the Soviet/Chinese/North Korean campaign falsely to accuse the US of using bacteriological weapons in Korea.

New Russian Evidence on the Korean War Biological Warfare Allegations: Background and Analysis

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 11 (Winter 1998): 185-199.

Milton Leitenberg analyzes new evidence on that the US used bacteriological weapons during the Korean War.

Sino-North Korean Conflict and its Resolution during the Korean War

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 14/15 (Winter 2003-2004): 9-24.

Shen Zhihua examines Chinese archival evidence regarding the serious tensions that complicated relations between China and North Korea during the Korean War.

Russian Documents on the Korean War, 1950-53

CWIHP Bulletin Issue 14/15 (Winter 2003-2004): 369-383.

James G. Hershberg introduces documents obtained by the late Soviet/Russian historian Dmitri Volkogonov which were transferred to the Library of Congress following his death in 1995. The Volkogonov papers contain thousands of archival documents spanning the entire history of the USSR, including many about the Korean War originally from the Russian Presidential Archives (APRF).

Did Stalin Lure the United States into the Korean War?

NKIDP e-Dossier #1 (June 2008)

Based on a telegram from Joseph Stalin to Czechoslovak President Klement Gottwald on 27 August 1950, Donggil Kim and William Stueck debate whether Stalin gave Kim Il Sung permission to attack South Korea not because he felt the US would not get involved, but rather because he wanted US to be entangled in a limited conflict in Asia.

New Evidence on the Korean War

NKIDP Document Reader (June 2010)

This document reader, edited by James F. Person, consists of selected Russian and Polish archival documents about the Korean War. It was compiled for a conference held at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library to mark the 60th anniversary of the war. The document reader is organized chronologically, starting with March 1949 and ending in April 1954.

China and the Post-War Reconstruction of North Korea, 1953-1961

NKIDP Working Paper #4 (May 2012)

Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia systematically assess the extent and significance of Chinese assistance to North Korea after the Korean War. In addition to examining North Korea’s development following the Korean War armistice, Shen and Xia draw larger conclusions about North Korea in the Cold War and how the DPRK navigated both the honeymoon period and subsequent schism between China and the Soviet Union.

Zhou Enlai and China's Response to the Korean War

NKIDP e-Dossier #9 (June 2012)

Charles Kraus presents 34 documents providing new details of Chinese aid to North Korea in the summer of 1950. Zhou Enlai coordinated with North Korea prior to the entry of Chinese troops in October 1950. The documents underscore how China's piecemeal response to the Korean War shifted as the autumn of 1950 approached.

Ship of Miracles: Korea 1950

Wilson Center NOW Interview (June 30, 2015)

In December of 1950, the crew of the SS Meredith Victory, a modestly-sized Merchant Marine ship, performed what the Guinness Book of World Records refers to as “the greatest rescue operation ever by a single ship.” The crew of the “Ship of Miracles,” as it came to be known, evacuated 14,000 refugees using a vessel designed and equipped to carry a tiny fraction of that number. One of the last surviving members of the crew, Admiral J. Robert Lunney, recounts the unlikely and amazing journey that began in Hungnam Harbor on December 23, and ended on December 26, when 14,000 refugees, and 5 babies born during the voyage, safely arrived on the island of Koje Do.

China’s False Allegations of the Use of Biological Weapons by the United States during the Korean War

CWIHP Working Paper #78 (March 2016)

Milton Leitenberg revisits the false allegations that the United States used biological weapons during the Korean War on the basis of new Chinese and Russian evidence.

Korea in the Bulgarian Archives, 1945-1995: An Introduction

NKIDP Working Paper #5 (September 2017)

Jordan Baev & Soyoung Kim summarize newly released archival evidence about the two Koreas from Bulgaria. Baev and Kim’s findings include new information on Bulgaria’s response to and participation in the Korean War.

The Korean War Remembered: Seoul vs Pyongyang

Sources & Methods (June 23, 2017)

Michael Devine shows the conflicting interpretations of the Korean War offered in museums in Seoul and Pyongyang.

Left, Right, and Rhee

Sources & Methods (August 28, 2017)

David P. Fields describes how the complicated political views of South Korea’s first president Rhee Syngman reveal the tangled origins of the Korean War.

Remembering Truman in South Korea

Sources & Methods (October 23, 2017)

Michael Devine argues that South Korean society has overlooked President Truman in commemorations of the Korean War.

How Korea Transformed the Cold War: Fearing the Worst

Wilson Center NOW Interview (December 17, 2019)

Sam Wells speaks to John Milewski about his latest book Fearing the Worst: How Korea Transformed the Cold WarAfter World War II, the escalating tensions of the Cold War shaped the international system. Wells' book explains how the Korean War fundamentally changed postwar competition between the United States and the Soviet Union into a militarized confrontation that would last decades.

Failed Diplomacy: Soviet-American Relations and the Division of Korea

Sources & Methods (May 18, 2020)

Records from the Russian archives offer insights into the deadlock in Soviet-American negotiations over Korea in 1947 and the permanent division of the peninsula into two rival states, Charles Kraus writes.

New and Old Sources on Select Korean War Topics and Issues

Sources & Methods (May 21, 2020)

In a series of posts on Sources & Methods, Jiyul Kim and Sheila Miyoshi Jager describe several aspects of the Korean War that are in need of greater study, and offer some suggestions for sources, both old and new.

The “Greater” UN Coalition during the Korean War

Sources & Methods (May 26, 2020)

Jiyul Kim and Sheila Miyoshi revisit the participation of the UN coalition in the Korean War. Composed of 63 nations, the coalition represented the first UN peace enforcement operation.

Korean War Special Operations

Sources & Methods (May 27, 2020)

Jiyul Kim and Sheila Miyoshi write that the Korean War prompted the US military establishment to realize that special operations capabilities cannot be built on a moment’s notice. They had to be maintained and nurtured in peacetime.

The Battle of Ch’unch’on

Sources & Methods (May 28, 2020)

Jiyul Kim and Sheila Miyoshi Jager write that it is long overdue that a more complete and balanced coverage on the South Korean story of the war be provided, starting with the Battle of Ch’unch’ŏn.

Woman, Student, and Boy Soldiers in the Korean War

Sources & Methods (May 29, 2020)

Jiyul Kim and Sheila Miyoshi Jagerlook at South Korean women, students, and boys to understand the Korean War’s impact on South Korean culture and society.

Preparing for War: Soviet-North Korean Relations, 1947-1950

Sources & Methods (June 3, 2020)

Kim Il Sung would have never dared to launch the Korean War on June 25 without the approval of Stalin. He also probably wouldn’t have done it without the arms, experts, and rubles that the Soviet Union provided, Charles Kraus writes.

Expanding Records of an Unended War

Sources & Methods (June 4, 2020)

Thanks to recent declassifications and accretions to the Truman library’s collections, Michael Devine reports that the documentary record of the Korean War continues to grow.

China, North Korea, and the Origins of the Korean War

Sources & Methods (June 9, 2020)

Charles Kraus explores the documentary record of China-North Korea relations from 1949-1950 to explain how China did, and did not, push Kim Il Sung towards war.

Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean False Allegations of Biological Weapons Use during the Korean War

Sources & Methods (June 10, 2020)

The USSR, China, and North Korea accused the United States of using biological weapons during the Korean War. Milton Leitenberg highlights what we know about those accusations today.

Bulgarian Medical Units in North Korea, 1952-1957

Sources & Methods (June 12, 2020)

Bulgaria sent medical personnel to North Korea during and after the war, helping to establish hospitals and care for wounded soldiers and civilians. Jordan Baev draws on photographs and textual records to illuminate this chapter of the Korean War.

Korea: 70 Years On

The Wilson Quarterly (Summer 2020)

This issue of the Wilson Quarterly explores the history and legacy of an unresolved conflict that still stokes tensions in the region and across the globe. Featuring contributions from Gregg Brazinsky, Chen Jian, Sheila Miyoshi Jager & Jiyul Kim, Michael Devine, Samuel F. Wells, Robert S. Litwak, Donggil Kim, Youngjun Jim, Jean Lee, Lt. Col. Sean Morrow, Katie Stallard-Blanchette, Soojin Park, Abraham Denmark & Lucas Myers, Charles F. Hanley, Yee Rem Kim, and John Strausbaugh, as well as an illustrated and comprehensive timeline of the conflict that features key archival documents from DigitalArchive.org.

China in North Korean Wartime Propaganda

Sources & Methods (June 16, 2020)

Gregg Brazinsky examines North Korea’s wartime propaganda that shaped popular attitudes toward China and the hundreds of thousands of Chinese Peoples’ Volunteers it dispatched to fight in the Korean War.

The Lays of Syngman Rhee

Sources & Methods (June 16, 2020)

David Fields examines pro-Rhee poetry and support letters written by Americans during and after the Korean War.

Captured North Korean Records: A Promising Source for the Korean War

Sources & Methods (June 17, 2020)

Youngjun Kim describes the diverse, still untouched records in the captured North Korean documents collection at the US National Archives, and how they can help scholars to give voice to ordinary North Korean people.

Forgotten Veterans of a Forgotten War: Remembering those Who Served in the Korean War

Sources & Methods (June 17, 2020)

Understanding the Korean War veteran’s difficult journeys home speaks to key themes of the war and can help take the true measure of the war’s place in American history, writes Zachary Matusheski.

North Korea’s War Orphans: Transnational Education and Postwar Society

Sources & Methods (June 18, 2020)

More than 100,000 children from across the Korean Peninsula were orphaned as a result of the Korean War. Intaek Hong presents the experiences of a group of 1,000 young North Koreans that lived in Poland from 1953-1959 and their reintegration into postwar North Korean society.

The Korean War: Collections & Resources on DigitalArchive.org

Sources & Methods (June 18, 2020)

Erin Scrimger surveys the collections about the Korean War available on the Wilson Center’s Digital Archive.

Korean Uprisings in 1946: Was the US Occupation Responsible for the Korean War?

Sources & Methods (June 19, 2020)

To understand Korea’s post-colonial revolution(s), Yumi Moon writes, we must analyze the conditions of Koreans’ daily lives under wartime Japanese rule and how such lives changed under the US and USSR occupations.

Revisiting Stalin’s and Mao’s Motivations in the Korean War

Sources & Methods (June 22, 2020)

China's leading historian of the Korean War, Shen Zhihua, explains how Stalin and Mao saw the conflict on the Korean Peninsula and the lasting implications of the war for the Sino-Soviet alliance.

Korean War International History since 1995

Sources & Methods (June 22, 2020)

William Stueck, the author of The Korean War: An International History, reflects on the literature surrounding the Korean War that emerged in the 25 years following the publication of his book.

Chinese and American Misjudgment and the Making and Prolonging of the Korean War

Sources & Methods (June 23, 2020)

Beijing and Washington both made critical misjudgments during the Korean War, misjudgments that, according to Chen Jian, turned the conflict into a prolonged Chinese-American confrontation.

Korea and the Fear of World War III

Sources & Methods (June 23, 2020)

The Korean War fundamentally transformed the Cold War competition between Moscow and Washington, driving a massive buildup of US strength, argues Samuel Wells.

An Olympics That Wasn’t Postponed: The DPRK POW Inter-Camp Games, 1952

Sources & Methods (June 24, 2020)

The cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics due to COVID-19 is the first time since the Second World War that the international games have been postponed. In the past, sport has not always yielded its place to global crises – an extraordinary event known as the POW (Prisoners of War) Inter-Camp Olympics was held during the bitter winter of 1952 against the backdrop of the Korean War, Jihan Kim writes.

The Lesson of the Korean War in the Age of “America First”

Sources & Methods (July 1, 2020)

According to David P. Fields, The history of the Korean War underscores that not every international problem has a clear or quick solution, but it does offer an important lesson for dealing with intractable problems: seek allies and build consensus.

The Korean War from the Chinese Perspective 

International History Declassified Podcast Episode No. 1 (June 25, 2020)

In the first episode of International History Declassified, co-hosts Pieter Biersteker and Kian Byrne speak with Dr. Charles Kraus of the History and Public Policy Program about the origins of the Korean War and the Chinese perspective. Dr. Kraus explains the role of Mao Zedong in the decision to invade South Korea, and how Chinese see the war today.

US Decision-Making and the Outbreak of the Korean War

International History Declassified Podcast Episode No. 2 (June 25, 2020)

Esteemed historian Samuel Wells joins co-hosts Pieter Biersteker and Kian Byrne to discuss the broader context of the Korean War and how US President Harry Truman made the decision to involve the US in the conflict.  According to Dr. Wells, much of our understanding of the Korean War today is due to the opening of the former Soviet archives in the early 1990s.

Stalin, Mao, and an Archival Examination of the Korean War

International History Declassified Podcast Episode No. 3 (June 25, 2020)

Co-hosts Pieter Biersteker and Kian Byrne sit down with Professor Sergey Radchenko to gain some insight into the Soviet view of the Korean War. Professor Radchenko outlines some interesting archives to explore and discusses the future of the field of international history.

The Korean War and US-Occupied Japan

Sources & Methods (July 13, 2020)

Leftist groups of Koreans in Japan, or zainichi Koreans, protested against Japan’s collaboration with the UN/US war effort in Korea at great personal risk. Many were sentenced to deportation to South Korea, writes Deokhyo Choi.

(Bibliography last updated on July 13, 2020.)


History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program uses history to improve understanding of important global dynamics, trends in international relations, and American foreign policy.  Read more

North Korea International Documentation Project

The North Korea International Documentation Project serves as an informational clearinghouse on North Korea for the scholarly and policymaking communities, disseminating documents on the DPRK from its former communist allies that provide valuable insight into the actions and nature of the North Korean state. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more