New Zealand was involved militarily in Korea from 1950 to 1957, first as part of the United Nations ‘police action’ to repel North Korea’s invasion of its southern neighbour, and then in a garrison role after the armistice in July 1953.
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.