Draining the sea with discretion: Force integration and civilian displacement during South Korean counter-insurgency operations, 1948-1953

Seung Joon Paik, Soul Park

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This paper analyses the dynamics of violence during civilian displacement operations. Specifically, we argue that the integration of security forces–solid command structure, monitoring of troops, and the quality of personnel–influences not only the military performance but also the level of civilian costs. That is, a highly integrated army can commit soldiers to displacement operations while minimising violence. When conducted by a partially integrated army, however, displacement operations are at risk of mass killing, pushing soldiers to remove civilians without sophisticated control. Our qualitative analysis of three major counter-guerrilla operations in South Korea provides support for our thesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)942-971
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Strategic Studies
Issue number6-7
Early online date11 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • civilian displacement
  • draining-the-sea tactic
  • internal cohesion
  • Korean counter-insurgency (COIN)
  • principal-agent problem

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