United Nations Commission on Korea (UNCOK)

International Operation Name: United Nations Commission on Korea

International Operation Dates: 12 December 1948 – 7 October 1950

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name: Asia            

Location: Korea                   

Canadian Operation Name: United Nations Commission on Korea

Canadian Operation Dates: 25 July 1950 – 7 October 1950  

Mission Mandate: General Assembly Resolution 195 (III) – to assist in the unification of Korea and the removal of barriers caused by the division of Korea and to observe the withdrawal of occupying forces.

General Assembly Resolution 293 (IV) – expanded to include observing and reporting on any developments that might lead to military conflict.

Mission Notes: At the end of the Second World War, the former Japanese colony of Korea was occupied by military forces from the United States and the Soviet Union, the line of demarcation being the 38th parallel. When efforts to create a new, independent, and unified Korean nation-state foundered, the United States turned to the United Nations for assistance.

On 14 November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 112 (II), which created the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK), whose mandate was to supervise free and open elections, assist in the withdrawal of the occupying forces, and guide the new political entity to full independence. Canada was nominated by the United States to serve as a member of the nine-nation commission. Forbidden by the Soviets from entering their zone in the north, UNTCOK could not carry out its mandate and subsequently recommended that elections be held in the American-occupied south and that the winner there be recognized as the sole legitimate Korean government.

In Resolution 195 (III), the General Assembly accepted UNTCOK’s recommendations and created the United Nations Commission on Korea (UNCOK). Its mission was to expedite the withdrawal of occupying forces and to assist the new government in unifying the country and removing economic, social and other barriers.

UNCOK was able to assist in the departure of the occupying forces, but had little success when it came to furthering Korean unification and, indeed, on 9 September 1948 North Korea declared its own separate nationhood.

As a result the General Assembly changed UNCOK’s mandate via Resolution 293 (IV) of 21 October 1949, adding the task of observing and reporting on any developments “which might lead to or otherwise involve military conflict in Korea”. In time, this became UNCOK’s primary role, and it was two Australian military observers who first reported the North Korean invasion of the south on 25 June 1950. It was their report that led the UN Security Council to authorize the use of force to beat back the North Korean forces. Despite the outbreak of fighting, UNCOK remained in existence and its task continued to be to submit reports, observe the mandated North Korean withdrawal, and to keep the Security Council informed of the progress of its resolution. UNCOK was officially terminated on 7 October 1950 when the General Assembly created the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNCURK).

Canada was asked to provide two officers to UNCOK and did so despite the outbreak of war. They arrived on 25 July 1950 and commenced reporting on the situation on the ground. They were transferred to UNCURK when that mission stood up and continued their reports. 

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