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June 2017

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U.S. Census Bureau History: The Korean War

U.S. Soldiers marching near Chosin Reservoir

Between November 27 and December 13, 1950, the Chinese 9th Army unsuccessfully
attempted to encircle 30,000 United Nations soldiers who fought their way from
North Korea's Chosin Reservoir to the port of Hungnam.

In response to orders for his troops to retreat, Major General Oliver P. Smith
responded, "Retreat, hell! We're not retreating, we're just advancing in
a different direction."

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense.

On June 25, 1950, 75,000 North Korean People's Army soldiers crossed the 38th parallel separating North and South Korea. The invasion caught South Korea and its allies by surprise and by June 27, the South Korean government evacuated the capital of Seoul. Within days, South Korea's military lost more than 75 percent of its strength.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea's attack on June 25, and two days later passed Resolution 83 urging nations to assist South Korea. That same day, President Harry S. Truman ordered the U.S. military to Korea as part of a United Nations mission to stop the North Korean attack.

The United Nations forces that arrived in early July 1950, slowed the North Korean advance, giving the United States and allied nations time to prepare an offensive campaign against North Korea. Under the direction of General Douglas MacArthur, United Nations forces launched a daring naval invasion well behind enemy lines at the South Korean port of Inchon in September 1950. Within weeks, the North Korean People's Army retreated north of the 38th Parallel; however, the United Nation's pursuit of the North Koreans across this line triggered Chinese and Russian military intervention.

By the end of 1950, United Nations forces had been pushed south to the 38th Parallel. Campaigns waged by both sides between January 1951 and July 1953, saw little exchange of territory. Years-long peace negotiations resulted in the signing of an armistice between the combatant nations on July 27, 1953. When hostilities ended, approximately 1 million United Nations, North Korean, Russian, and Chinese soldiers and 2.5 million civilians were dead.

The July 27, 1953, armistice ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula "until a peaceful settlement is achieved." To this day, a final settlement to end the Korean War remains elusive.

You can learn more about our nation's veterans, the Korean War, and the Korean and Korean American population data and records collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies. For example:

  • President Harry S. Truman commanded some of the 20th Century's greatest military leaders during the Korean War, including Generals Douglas MacArthur, Matthew B. Ridgway, Mark W. Clark (who signed the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953), William F. Dean, John H. Church, and the most decorated U.S. Marine in American history—Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller.
  • When hostilities broke out on the Korean peninsula, Census Bureau employees answered America's call to service. For example, Governments Division employee and World War II veteran Wilbur "Will" J. Mathias returned to active duty to ferry troops and supplies to Korea between the fall of 1950 and July 1952. Dorothy Paul, U.S. Naval Reserve, Women's Reserve veteran of World War II and Personnel Division employee returned to active duty in April 1951. She was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until the end of the war.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 5,720,000 men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces between 1950 and 1953. Of this number, 1,789,000 served in the Korean War Theater. In May 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated there were 1,592,000 living veterans from the Korean War era.
  • In 1950, the population of South Korea was approximately 20.4 million and North Korea's
    population numbered about 9.7 million. As of November 1, 2015, Statistics Korea reported the population of South Korea was 51,069.000. In July 2016, the Central Intelligence Agency estimated North Korea's population was 25.1 million
  • With 16 victories during the Korean War, U.S. Air Force pilot Joseph C. McConnell remains the top scoring American flying ace of the jet age. Other Korean War flying aces include James Jabara, Manuel J. Fernandez, George Andrew Davis, Jr., and Royal N. Baker.
  • The 1980 Census included six Asian groups in the race question—Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. In 1980, the Korean population in the United States was 354,953. The states with the largest Korean populations were: California (103,845), New York (34,157) and Illinois (23,989).
  • In 2010, the Korean population in the United States numbered 1,423,784. In 2015, the American Community Survey data estimated there were 1,822,213 people in the United States identifying as Korean or Korean in combination with another race.

Korean War 

President William J. Clinton and Republic of Korea President Kim Young Sam dedicated the Korean War Veterans Memorial
on July 27, 1995—the 42nd anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War.

The memorial honors all United Nations casualties, including 628,833 killed and 1,064,453 wounded.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Koreatown sign

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The U.S. Korean Population

Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY, have the largest Korean populations in the United States with 110,679 and 91,729, respectively; however Koreans make up just 2.8 and 1.1 percent of each respective city's population.

Several cities in Bergen County, NJ, are home to large concentrations of Koreans, including Palisades Park, NJ (46 percent), Leonia, NJ (30.2 percent), and Ridgefield, NJ (30.5 percent).

Jesse L. Brown

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Did You Know?

Jesse L. Brown—the U.S. Navy's first African American aviator—was killed during the Korean War on December 4, 1950.

A veteran of 20 combat missions, Brown was shot down by enemy fire while supporting the U.S. Marines during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Brown became the first African American naval officer killed in the war.

This Month in Census History

After failing to approve apportionment legislation following the 1920 Census, Congress passed Public Law 71-12 on June 18, 1929. The law authorized the 1930 Census and automatically apportioned the House of Representatives. Congress used the Webster Method to assign seats by rounding fractional remainders using the arithmetic mean .

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