According to Wikipedia, there were many belligerents on the South Korean side involved in the war. This includes The UK, France, Australia, Canada, Greece and many, many others.

Why, then, is there so much more hatred towards the US when other countries were a part of the war? Was the hatred for the US spawned from that war, or has it been the US actions (sanctions etc) towards the DPRK over the years which has created the situation we are in now?

Are other countries involved seen in the same light by the DPRK, as the US is?

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    NK uses propaganda to create external existential threats that justify military rule. No level of propaganda will get people to believe that Canada or Australia is the world's "Great Satan."
    – Shane
    Aug 22, 2017 at 16:17
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    Shane hit it on the head. All the other reasons listed in other answers are excuses to hide the real reason that it is necessary to keep the NK regime in control. Picking a word fight with the USA is just a pragmatic choice. NK knows the US isn't going to risk a conflict with China by taking NK out. NK is nothing more than the little kid talking smack while his dad is around because the kid knows nobody is going to do anything. OTOH, if they picked on a lesser foe, like France/UK it is quite possible that France/UK would do something about it and then China wouldn't want to risk the conflict.
    – Dunk
    Aug 22, 2017 at 18:09
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    UK/French troops on China's border is not desirable but livable for China. US troops on its border, absolutely not.
    – Dunk
    Aug 22, 2017 at 18:10
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    @Shane I think you underestimate propaganda. Aug 22, 2017 at 23:00
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    @Dunk I suspect we might see the day where China takes North Korea out.
    – gerrit
    Aug 23, 2017 at 8:35

4 Answers 4


While Alexander's points are correct and certainly do not help the USA win North Korean sympathies, I think that more than an historical view the answer lies in the current situation:

  • USA is the only foreign power that still has troops stationed in South Korea.

  • USA was the most powerful nation of the UN coalition. The advantage it had in the Korean war has only increased.

  • The other major powers (UK, France) have lost or granted independence to most of the colonial possessions that helped them to project power in the area (Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, former Indochina comprising of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos), reducing their influence and making it less visible.

  • As a consequence of the above, USA remains the most significant and involved foreign member of the "Western coalition". The six-party talks, for example, included Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and USA. Of the latter:

    • Pressuring South Korea into submission is not a viable tactic, specially while it has the support of the USA¹.

    • Japan has a limited military so it is not much of a threat.

  • Other members of the former UN coalition seem to be happy following the USA lead (there are no separate political initiatives coming from the UK, France or Australia).

I have seen some different analysis behind NK politics, but the above points make the USA the prime target. For example:

  • They want to invade South Korea and the USA presence is an additional obstacle. NK leadership thinks that threatening the USA will get it to retire its support to South Korea and leave the South Korean army without allies.

  • They are honestly afraid of the USA and South Korea invading them, and want to have leverage to avoid that.

  • They need a foreign threat to justify its military control of the population, and the USA gives the most terrifying threat.

¹ And @SoylentGray has a point that North Korea has not been ignoring South Korea: there have been artillery attacks across the border and there are strong suspicions that a NK submarine sunk a SK destroyer.

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    @SteveMelnikoff Maybe I expressed in a complicated way, but I cannot think of any better. The point of pressuring someone is usually to get something out of it; it makes no sense to pressure someone for something they cannot or are never going to accept (you can point a gun at me and get my wallet, pointing a gun at me and asking me to fly is rather dumb). South Korea will not stop defending itself, so it makes little sense to direct many resources at that. But maybe the USA will stop supporting South Korea, if threatened enough.
    – SJuan76
    Aug 22, 2017 at 10:49
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    @SteveMelnikoff - I believe they're looking at the 6 parties and saying why NK wouldn't be putting pressure on them to stop support SK. Looking at the last 3 countries, which are NK going to put pressure on to stop supporting SK? The most nonsensical one would be to try to pressure SK to stop supporting themselves. Aug 22, 2017 at 11:35
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    @Damien_The_Unbeliever If that's what's meant, maybe something like "They don't expect to be able to intimidate South Korea into submission." I don't think that's the whole reason though - both sides see themselves as the legitimate government for the whole continent, and the people on both sides see each other as having shared culture and heritage, so the DPRK would only be hurting its own legitimacy by making SK it's "sworn enemy." Aug 22, 2017 at 12:10
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    Actually there is alot of antiSouth Korea propoganda and attempts at provocation in the area. The media really just does not report on them as much or make them appear to be aimed at the US. Aug 22, 2017 at 18:18
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    "Japan has a limited military so it is not much of a threat." - Japan has quite a substantial military, on a comparable level with the UK or Germany. However article 9 of the Japanese constitution prohibits Japan from using military force against another state for any reason, except in self defence. Aug 23, 2017 at 1:51

The US maintained a particularly destructive and deadly bombing campaign on North Korea during the Korean war:

During the course of the three-year war, which both sides accuse one another of provoking, the U.S. dropped 635,000 tons of explosives on North Korea, including 32,557 tons of napalm, an incendiary liquid that can clear forested areas and cause devastating burns to human skin. (In constrast [sic], the U.S. used 503,000 tons of bombs during the entire Pacific Theater of World War Two, according to a 2009 study by the Asia-Pacific Journal.) In a 1984 interview, Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, claimed U.S. bombs "killed off 20 percent of the population" and "targeted everything that moved in North Korea." These acts, largely ignored by the U.S.' collective memory, have deeply contributed to Pyongyang's contempt for the U.S. and especially its ongoing military presence on the Korean Peninsula.

"Most Americans are completely unaware that we destroyed more cities in the North then we did in Japan or Germany during World War II... Every North Korean knows about this, it's drilled into their minds. We never hear about it," historian and author Bruce Cumings told Newsweek by email Monday.

This is recent enough to still be a living memory in North Korea, and plays heavily in North Korean propaganda.


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    Other references make clear that the figures like "635,000 tons" are the amount collectively used by United Nations forces to stop the invasion by the communist regions of Korea and China, in the whole of Korea, not just the north. "UN air superiority remained vital throughout the war, enabling the dropping of 635,000 tons of bombs (and 32,557 tons of napalm)". books.google.com/…
    – DavePhD
    Aug 22, 2017 at 20:16
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    "This is recent enough to still be a living memory in North Korea" By some people, but not that many. Life expectancy in North Korea is 70.3 years. The Korean War was 67-64 years ago, so only 70+-year-olds are going to remember it and probably only 75+-year-olds would remember it decently well. There aren't a lot of those in North Korea.
    – reirab
    Aug 22, 2017 at 22:59
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    @DavePhD Since the USSR (with all the commie countries following suit) was boycotting the UN, it was a UN force of US allies led by the US, with the US doing the vast majority of bombing.
    – user16409
    Aug 24, 2017 at 11:30
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    @reirab They might be dead but it's was a very real memory for the parents and grandparents of members of a society with strong filial respect for elders.
    – user16409
    Aug 24, 2017 at 11:32
  • @reirab WWII vets and their generation are dying out, but how many people in the US know of the sacrifice of D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge? How large does WWII loom in collective memory, in films like Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler's list? What this historian is saying is that the scale of destruction in North Korea is larger than war-time Japan or Germany, yet most Americans have no idea that it even occurred. However, North Koreans are not ignorant of it, just as Americans are not unaware of the major events of WWII.
    – user151841
    Sep 11, 2019 at 20:33

Also according to Wikipedia (same article, in the box on the right, under "Strength"), albeit the Korea war was a U.N. mandate, the U.S. was the main force, providing 326k out of 370k of the allied personnel, or about 90%, plus they supplied most of the armament; and they appointed the commander of the allied forces. Without the U.S., North Korea would have won over South Korea, period. No other ally, even if their contribution may have been helpful, could have made any difference to the outcome of the war.

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    This implies that if the US hadn't sent 300k troops that someone else wouldn't have.
    – corsiKa
    Aug 22, 2017 at 20:00
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    @corsiKa Nothing in history, then or now, implies another power would have.
    – SnakeDoc
    Aug 22, 2017 at 20:36
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    @corsiKa Who should have sent 300k troops to Korea in no time? The rest of the world was recovering from WW2; Germany was completely disarmed, and France was fighting its Indochina war and had no man to spare in the Pacifics. Only the U.S. had the required resources at their disposal.
    – Alexander
    Aug 23, 2017 at 6:35

The US has a variety of justifications for having hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of bases overseas. The US presence in Japan and South Korea, in particular, is contingent on the North Korean threat. If North Korea ceases to be a threat, the US troops stationed in South Korea and Japan will have even less support from local populations then they have now.

This is why the US politicians and the mainstream media cheerleaders continue to cast DPRK as an extreme threat.

Or, alternatively, the US would need to cast China into the villain role that DPRK currently fills. Unfortunately, there is so much Won, Yen, and USD invested in China that making China into the next pariah would be deeply unpopular with the powerful investment classes in these countries.

Most of the other countries you mention in the question - UK Commonwealth, France, etc - no longer have a large overseas presence due to the end of colonialism. Therefore, they have no interest in having a large troop presence in East Asia. Said another way, these countries now trust the US to "police the world" and enforce post-colonial international security.

Sooo... the US, the most powerful nation in the world, uses DPRK as a justification to station troops and nuclear weapon in its vicinity. The most powerful nation minces no words in stating that the DPRK is the reason for having those troops there. The US has bombed the entire DPRK economy to dust, and has aggressively invaded Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Panama, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and others since the 1950s. The US has sponsored coups and attempted to overthrow governments in Venezuela, Guatemala, Chile, Ukraine, Syria, Cuba, Nicaragua, South Korea, and throughout Africa.

The threat of overthrow by the US has also worked to keep the DPRK regime in power; in a word, the presence of a threat has worked to unify the regime. In many ways, the US presence keeps the DPRK government in power. Thus DPRK must keep the US boogey man in place.

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    There are ~1.3 million US troops across all branches and the majority of them are stationed in the US. Saying there are millions of troops stationed overseas is disingenuous. dmdc.osd.mil/appj/dwp/rest/… Aug 22, 2017 at 15:18
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    This is very true. The reports of US soldier misbehavior in South Korea go up as the tensions between the north and south go down and vice versa. Aug 22, 2017 at 18:19
  • The question was not about why the U.S. views North Korea as a threat, but rather about North Korean views of towards the U.S. Unless you're implying the North Korea threatens the U.S. so that the U.S. will keep more troops in the region, this is not an answer to this question.
    – reirab
    Aug 22, 2017 at 23:07

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