n the summer of 1950, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) came tantalizingly close to rolling up UN forces on the Korean Peninsula. Only a heroic defense around Pusan prevented a total victory for North Korea (the DPRK), thus allowing MacArthur’s war-changing invasion at Inchon. But what if North Korean forces had prevailed? What would Korea (and by extension the rest of Asia) look like today?
North Korea could have won the war in one of three ways. First, if the United States had decided not to intervene, the KPA would have rolled up South Korean forces and taken Pusan, likely ending the war. Second, even after the deployment of U.S. and UN forces to South Korea, the situation remained touch-and-go. At several points in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter, North Korean forces threatened to penetrate UN lines and collapse the pocket. Had this happened, the United States would have faced the difficult choice of whether to continue the war and go ahead with the invasion at Inchon. Third, China’s intervention in the war in November of 1950 devastated advancing UN forces. Although the UN recovered, it was not inconceivable that the Chinese offensive might have forced a UN collapse, allowing the PLA to roll up the peninsula.