This paper takes an overall look at the form and operation of the labor force mobilized during the Korean War, with a particular focus on the Korean Service Corps(KSC) under the Eighth U.S. Army.
Despite the UN Forces’ participation at the beginning of the war, the front line ended up being pushed down to the Nakdong River. Attempting to overcome this crisis, South Korean President Syngman Rhee appealed to the whole nation for voluntary assistance in the war effort. However, due to the lack of legal basis for the mobilization of reserve forces and laborers and the declaration of emergency martial law leading to men being conscripted on the streets, systematic mobilization was unable to be implemented. About one month after the war broke out, the "Special Measures Ordinance on Punishment" was enforced, laying down the legal basis for conscription and mobilization. However, due to the increase in the number of refugees and floating population, systematic mobilization could still not be carried out as administrative procedures were difficult to implement.
The range of the Eighth U.S. Army’s labor mobilization expanded across the country as the Incheon landing cleared the frontline and the military advanced northward. However, some of the refugees who were mobilized during the Nakdong River battle went missing while following the U.S. military northward. Moreover, problems such as the language barrier and the work efficiency of the Korean labor force were continuously made apparent, raising the need to organize the workforce. As the front lines again moved southward with the entry of the Chinese military and the conflict turning into a war of attrition along the present-day demarcation line, the organization of the workforce was stepped up, resulting in the establishment of the KSC.
The creation of the KSC was not just in accordance with the needs of the Eighth U.S. Army. The Korean government attempted to create a national all-out war system by combining the reserve and non-combat forces. It established the "National Defense Corps" in December 1950, but due to the so-called "National Defense Corps issue," the National Defense Corps was disbanded after half a year. The Korean Army, feeling the need for the systematic mobilization of the labor force throughout the war just like the Eighth U.S. Army, established the Fifth Corps, a reserve unit. It aimed to reabsorb personnel from the National Defense Corps to secure troops enough for five divisions. Meeting both the needs of Korea and the United States, the KSC was established with the Fifth Corps as its parent institution. Since the armistice agreement, all labor organizations have been gradually dismantled, with some remaining as the current KSC.
Despite its distinctiveness, the KSC was termed the 'vacuum of Korean War research' because it had not received attention in either history or military studies at home or abroad. Therefore, this research’s significance lies in finding historical significance by following in the footsteps of those who existed at the center of Korea’s national tragedy.