New Zealand military forces were involved in Korea from 1950 to 1957. First, they took part in the United Nations ‘police action’ to repel Communist North Korea’s invasion of its southern neighbour. Better known as the Korean War, this conflict lasted from 25 June 1950 to 27 July 1953, when an armistice was agreed. A reduced New Zealand force then remained in Korea in a garrison role until the last troops were finally withdrawn in 1957.
NZers in Korea (1950-1957)
4700 New Zealanders served as part of the New Zealand contingent - Kayforce - under UN Command 1300 served on the frigates during the war and for a period after the Armistice (1953-1957) 45 men lost their lives serving in NZ forces - 33 of them during the war.
Although New Zealand’s contribution to the United Nations force was not large, the crisis had a major impact on the country’s approach to international relations. In New Zealand, as elsewhere, it was assumed that North Korea was acting at the instigation of the Soviet Union, and that firm resistance to communist encroachment was necessary.
The events in North Korea provided an opportunity for New Zealand to pursue its goal of obtaining a commitment by the United States to its security. The ANZUS Treaty of 1951 was the successful achievement of this objective, and was to have far-reaching implications for New Zealand’s international relations in the long term.
The crisis also had a dramatic influence on New Zealand’s economy. A wool boom brought great prosperity but also provided a backdrop to the bitter waterfront dispute of 1951.