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The analysis of Kim Ilsung’s Strategy during Korean War : The Tendency of Turning Strategy into Tactics

Kim Tae Hyun 1

1국방대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Purpose of this article is to analyze the dynamics of ‘Strategy of Tactics’, based on a case study of Kim Ilsung’s strategy during Korean War, especially the period from June to September 1950. The strategy of tactics can explain why Kim Ilsung as a supreme war commander of north Korean Army conducted the Korean War like a battle rather than war without any consideration or calculation on the possible ‘friction of war’(conceptualized by Carl von Clausewitz). This research argues that a discord or a mismatch in the level of war defined in the ‘strategy - operational art - tactics’ hierarchical system facilitated the military adventurism and rigidity of strategy, which ultimately contributed to expand a crack and friction between ideal war(merely war planning) and real war(conduct of war). This basic conceptual framework defined as ‘tacticization of strategy’ illustrates a phenomenon that a lower level of war strategy(tactics) dominates the logic of higher level of strategy, possibly compared with a paradoxical situation such as ‘the tail wags the dog’. This article argues that Kim Ilsung’s tactics-oriented way of thinking, misinterpreting the whole war as a battle or combat rather than as a ‘war itself’, was an critical factor which motivated him an adventuristic initiation of war, and caused an unexpected friction and catastrophic mistakes and failure in the conduct of the initial offensive phase of Korean War from June to September 1950. This explanatory concept of ‘tacticization of strategy’ or ‘strategy of tactics’ can explain why Kim Ilsung miscalculated the war prospect based on a wishful thinking such as a blitzkrieg-victory illusion. This was a decisive mistake he made during war decision making process, which forced him not to assess and decide in a strategic sense during conduct of war as well. He overestimated the impact of blitzkrieg. He believed once north Korean army occupied south Korean Capital within a short period, the south Korean government would collapse and then he could rule all the territory in the southern part of Korean Peninsula. This illusion of blitzkrieg before and during war made his war as a simple combat or battle at a tactical level. As long as he regarded his war as a ‘mere combat, there was no reason to take into account the frictions of war for him. He never doubted the victory of his army. Kim Ilsung’s misunderstanding of war, defined as a tacticization of strategy in this article, resulted in a fatal catastrophe for him.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.