International conference, Thursday 6 – Friday 7 October 2011

In October 2011, the Australian War Memorial convened a major international conference on the Korean War. When communist North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, an American-led United Nations coalition drove the North Koreans back, which, in turn, brought China into the war. When an armistice was signed three years later, the border between the two Koreas was practically unchanged. Though the fighting was on a vast scale, particularly in 1950-51, the war was often called a ‘police action’. In fact, it was one of the most significant conflicts, politically and militarily, of the twentieth century.

The misreading of Chinese intentions, the controversial sacking of General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander, and the devising of a strategy that would prevent the conflict escalating at a time of acute Cold War tensions on the one hand while bringing it to a successful conclusion on the other, remain intriguing subjects. Korea also provided a new context for such diverse issues as the application of air and sea power, the problems of working with allies and the tactical difficulties caused by terrain and climate.

Co-inciding with the 60th anniversary of the year of landmark Australian battles in Korea, at Kapyong in April, and Maryang San in October 1951, this conference assembled leading military historians from around the world to bring a multi-national perspective to these themes. Keynote speaker, Professor Robert O’Neill, Australian Official Historian of the Korean War and former Chichele Professor of History at Oxford University, joined experts from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and South Korea to present their latest research findings. Distinguished Australian veterans of the Korean War also presented their perceptions of the conflict.

Delegates attending the conference welcomed at a reception on the evening of Wednesday 5 October 2011 at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Canberra.

Watch Dr Peter Pedersen's introduction to the conference on YouTube.

This conference was convened by the Australian War Memorial. The support of the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is gratefully acknowledged.

Department of Veterans Affairs