I do have to put the “a.k.a. the Korean War”, because that is by far the most common name for this war in English, and if I didn’t use the term ‘the Korean War’ I would confuse most readers.
But step back, and try to think about it from a Korean perspective. There have been many wars on the Korean peninsula, and all of them can be accurately labelled a ‘Korean’ war. Why should one war be singled out and referred to as the ‘Korean’ war, and not the other ‘Korean’ wars?
It’s obvious that a name like ‘Korean War’ would not be coined by Koreans. We call it the ‘Korean War’ because it is the first (and so far, only) major war on the Korean peninsula which involved countries outside of East Asia. From the U.S. perspective, and the U.K. perspective, and the New Zealand perspective, and the Turkish perspective, and the Ethiopian perspective, and the Colombian perspective, it is the ‘Korean War’ because that was the only military war those countries (among others) ever fought in ‘Korea’.
I noticed that, in South Korea, where the English labels would say ‘Korean War’, the Korean labels would say ‘6·25 전쟁’ (6-25 Jeonjaeng) which means ‘June 25th War’. Those of you who know some Chinese might have noticed that the Korean word for war, jeonjaeng, comes from the Chinese word 戰爭 (pronounced as zhànzhēng in Mandarin).
The Korean War did turn hot on June 25th, when North Korea started to invade South Korea. The name ‘June 25th War’ is a reminder that North Korea started the hostilities, and that South Korea was unprepared for war and had no intention of using the military against North Korea anytime soon. ‘June 25th War’ presents South Korea as a righteous victim which responded to an unprovoked invasion.
I knew, I just knew that North Korea would not use the name ‘June 25th War’ precisely because that name does emphasize that North Korea did invade South Korea without provocation, and that using that date to name the war makes North Korea look like a bully. I also know that North Koreans would not use the name ‘Korean War’ for the same reason South Koreans tend not to use that name – North Koreans are also aware of the many ‘Korean’ wars of history.
And I’m right – North Korea calls the war Joguk Haebang Jeonjaeng – ‘Fatherland Liberation War’. Yeah, of course they call themselves ‘liberators’. They invaded South Korea to ‘liberate’ it.
Since this is a blog about travelling in South Korea, I feel that it is most appropriate to use the South Korean name – ‘June 25th War’ – but I also use the term ‘Korean War’ for clarity’s sake.