America's first military involvement in Korea was in 1871. We attacked Pyongyang (now the capitol of North Korea) in retaliation for the sinking of a civilian American merchant ship by the Koreans.
The next time American military forces set foot upon Korea was during World War II. Before and during the war, Korea was a colony of Japan. We invaded it from the south and the Soviet Union invaded from the north. We drew the line at the 38th Parallel, the Soviets would accept the surrender of Japanese troops north of the line and we would accecpt surrenders south of the line.
The U.S. began rebuilding southern Korea and the Soviets started rebuilding the northern half of the country. When elections were supposed to take place in the entire country, the Soviets stopped them in the north and declared the country north of the 38th Parallel, The People's Democratic Republic of Korea (aka, North Korea) and we declared the southern half, The Republic of Korea (South Korea). The Soviets appointed a dictator in the north who, on 25 June 1950, with Soviet military support, invaded South Korea seeking to reunite the country under Communist rule. The U.S. rushed forces from occupation duty in Japan to stop the invasion but these forces were poorly trained and not prepared for battle. United Nations forces (mostly U.S. units) retreated south and held a perimiter around Pusan. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the commander of U.N. Forces, launched an amphibious assault at Inchon behind the North Korean lines and forces them back north of the 38th Parallel.
U.N. Forces then invaded North Korea, captured the capitol, Pyongyang, and pushed north all the way to the Chinese border. China (another new Communist country) preceived this as a threat and invaded Korea and pushed U.N. forces back into South Korea. U.N. forces pushed the Chinese and North Korean forces back to the middle of the penninsula-the present day border between North and South Korea. The major powers involved in the war called for a temporary armsistance to begin peace talks. Nothing came of the meetings, and the two Koreas still to this day are officially at war with one another.
Along the border of the two countries is a 2.5 mile wide area called the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Neither side can have heavy weapons like tanks or artillery in the DMZ, the only thing they can have is Infantry (like me). It is still a combat zone there. Since the end of the war over 1,500 Americans have been killed in service on the DMZ. The North Koreans fire at Americans constantly, and small unit border actions are not uncommon. There have been over 50,000 combat actions between American and North Korean units on the border.
The DMZ was called by former President Clinton, "the scariest place on Earth."
The following is a portion of an article in National Geographic on the DMZ:
"Day 18,000, give or take a few, of the cease-fire between South and North Korea begins like most other days: Soldiers are preparing for war. In the bitter cold of pre-dawn darkness, 15 Infantrymen huddle together on a road outside a sleeping farm village and streak their faces with camouflage paint.
They snap magazines (clips) of live ammunition into their M-4 Assault Rifles. With the wind comes a faint strain of martial music, as if from a ghostly parade, carrying from the huge speakers mounted across he border in North Korea. At hand signal from the platoon leader, the soldiers noiselessly line up, then disperse, melting into the surrounding darkness.
Their mission is to patrol a stretch of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the contentious no-man's-land that has divided the two Koreas for more than 50 years. The bright lights of Seoul, the South Korean capitol, burn less than 35 miles away, but here in the fenced-off, land-mined, guard towered DMZ, the only reality is a shadowy game of cat and mouse played between soldiers of warring armies...
...As the platoon approaches a North Korean guard tower, the leader signals his men to stay alert. If the patrol is particularly lucky, a North Korean soldier will recklessly dash through the brush and offer to defect with state secrets. If it particularly unlucky, the North Koreans will open fire.
That would be unlucky for all of us: In a worst-case scenario, Korea's uneasy peace could shatter, spilling war across the peninsula, killing millions. And then possibly on to China, Japan, and beyond, pushing the world towards possible nuclear war.
Apocalyptic thoughts come easy here. In a world full of scary places---Kashmir, Chechnya, the West Bank---the DMZ is perhaps the scariest of all, considering the massive firepower deployed on both sides and the brinkmanship practices by both rival camps...
...Recently things have grown dramatically worse. Confronted by U.S. intelligence, the North Korean government suggested it was secretly enriching uranium to produce nuclear weapons. It then withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and moved to reactivate a plutonium reprocessing facility, also to produce weapons material. And then during talks with U.S. officials, North Korea asserted it already has nuclear weapons."
Sounds fun huh? Communist bastards...