Korean War

To next


End of Japanese Rule

Japan invaded Korea (1) and annexed it to the Japanese Empire in 1910. (8) OR 1916 (7b) During World War II Roosevelt had supported the concept of a four power trusteeship for the peninsula in an effort to ensure that the Soviet Union did not expand its influence over it. (7a) Were it to do so, Russia would then strengthen the economic resources of the Soviet Far East and occupy a dominating strategic position in relation to both China and Japan. (7a) At the Cairo Conference (1943), the United States, Great Britain, and China promised Korea independence. (12) After hard fighting (1) in World War II (2,4) the Japanese failed. (1,2) The people of Korea wanted to be independent, (5) and rejoiced at Japan’s defeat. (10) In Korea, as in Manchuria and northern China, the United States was keen to contain Soviet influence. (7a) In 1945 the Western allies and the USSR agreed that when Japan was finally defeated, Korea should be given back its independence. (7b) According to the terms of Potsdam Declaration, (16) in 1945, (7a) Korea was to become independent. (16) The Americans attempted to avoid discussion of the application of trusteeship to Korea. (7a) However, Korea was too important to Moscow, and when the Soviet Union declared war on Japan (7a) its forces penetrated Korea (7a, 7b) as well as Manchuria. (7a) At a short meeting (11) Stalin agreed that the Americans could accept the surrender of Japanese forces in the south, and the US then proposed the 38th parallel as the dividing line. (7a) Thus even before the war ended Russia and the USA had agreed that after the war Korea would be divided into two zones, Russian and American. (15) It was originally intended that the two zones would eventually be united into one. (15) Just as the Russian and American allies had met in Germany so they did on the east coast of Asia when Japan surrendered in 1945. (8a) With the end of the Second World War (4,5) on August (7b,13) 15th (13) 1945, (5,8) Korea was liberated. (3,4) In August 1945 (15) Soviet troops (2,5), which had been posted in Siberia in hopes of taking the Japanese surrender in East Asia, (11) took control of the north (2,5) above the 38th parallel (8,12) In September, after the Japanese surrender, (15) U.S. (8,10) OR American led Allied (11) forces occupied the southern half of the peninsula (8,10) to administer it, (8,12) Korean guerrilla forces moving across the Chinese-Korean border, as well as international help managed to achieve this. (4) However, Koreans’ joy at Japan’s defeat was short-lived. (10) Liberation did not instantly bring about the independence for which the Koreans had fought so fiercely. (10)

Trusteeship: American/Russian spheres of influence

But in 1945 United States and Soviet Union were not friends. (3,5) The confrontation between them (3) is called the Cold War. (5,7) The ‘United Nations’ was set up to maintain peace and reduce inequalities across the globe. (NS2) Unfortunately the main winners of the war, the USA and the USSR, disagreed about the future. (NS2) The USSR wanted a communist world and the USA a capitalist one. (NS2) Each side sought to control more of the world than the other. (NS2) In Europe there was huge devastation from the war, and in 1947 the US President Truman offered the European countries the ‘Marshall Plan’, by which the United States gave economic help. (NS2) In the course of defeating Hitler the USSR had conquered eastern European countries such as Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia: the Red Army remained in control. (NS2)

Europe became divided by what Churchill called an ‘Iron Curtain’ between the ‘Eastern bloc’ and the ‘Western bloc’. (NS2) The western bloc formed a military alliance under the Americans, called NATO1, and the eastern bloc formed an alliance under Russia called the Warsaw Pact. (NS2) At first only the USA had nuclear weapon, but soon Russia had it as well. (NS2) Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact could fire rockets with nuclear bombs. (NS2) Since a war would lead to the destruction of both sides, each was ‘deterred’ from starting one. (NS2) Both sides spent enormous amounts of money on increasingly complex weapons to try to outdo each other. (NS2) This was an ‘Arms Race’. (NS2) The ‘nuclear deterrence’ meant that disagreements never led to an actual war, but they were so hostile to each other that we call this period the ‘Cold War’ between ‘East and West’. (NS2)

With the onset of the cold war the divide between them hardened, (15) and as in Germany the two powers could not agree on the future of Korea. (7b) The USSR sealed off the frontier in 1945, but hoped to arrive at some agreement with the USA that would guarantee their interests in the Korean peninsula. (7b) Soon after the end of war, Korea’s fate was decided at a meeting in the eastern United States which no Koreans attended. (11) On 6th September, a People’s Republic of Korea was created with Yuh Woon-Hyung as President, (16) but at the Moscow Council of Foreign Ministers’ conference in December 1945 Byrnes proposed trusteeship for Korea, and Molotov accepted, despite the fact that politically the whole of Korea was within the grasp of the USSR. (7a) A line dividing North and South Korea was (11,12) arbitrarily (12) marked along the 38th parallel. (11,12) In February 1946 the US Army broke up the ‘People’s Republic’, and Yuh Woon Hyung was murdered. (16) Korean efforts to establish an independent government were therefore frustrated. (10) Korea was (1,2) temporarily (2,6) split. (1,2) South Korea created a franchise to raise money and funds to recover. (16) From 1945 to 1948 attempts by the United Nations to unify Korea failed. (7b) In 1946 a joint US-USSR Commission on the formation of a Korean Government reached an impasse. (16) The Joint-commission was dissolved as the Cold War begins. (16) As the Cold War developed, Josef Stalin, the Soviet Communist leader, imposed his totalitarian regime in countries under Russian control. (NS2) He refused to allow them to accept American help, saying that the aid money was a bribe to keep them capitalist. (NS2) He accused the Americans of imperialism. (NS2) In the same way the Russians installed a communist government in North Korea. (14,15) OR North Korea formed the Provisional People’s Committee for North Korea, led by Kim Il-sung, in February 1946. (13) In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that called for general elections in Korea under the supervision of a UN Commission. (10) However, the Soviet Union refused to comply with the resolution for elections (10,12) and denied the UN Commission’s access to the northern half of Korea. (10) The UN General Assembly then adopted another resolution calling for elections in areas accessible to its commission, that is, in the areas south of the 38th parallel. (10) This artificial line came to divide the Korean Peninsula into South and North. (8,10) The U.N. had thus divided the administration of the peninsula between two of the victorious Allied powers (8) at the 38th parallel. (2,4) This trusteeship over the North and South, respectively (9) was meant to be a temporary division, (2,6) but it is still there today. (2,15) As relations between the Soviet Union and the United States worsened, trade between the two zones ceased; great economic hardship resulted, since the regions were economically interdependent, industry and trade being concentrated in the North and agriculture in the South. (12) The Koreans wished to reunite their country but America feared the Communists would try to dominate it. (8a) This would increase the threat to her power in the Far East. (8a) Koreans did not favour trusteeship and wanted liberation after 40 years of Japanese oppression. (7a) Virulent South Korean resistance led to Truman losing interest in the idea of trusteeship. (7a) The right in South Korea would never accept trusteeship, and that was the constituency on which the US had to rely in order to stem the communist takeover of the whole of Korea. (7a) To stem the pro-communist tide in the south, therefore, the Americans were obliged to accept the strongly anti-Soviet (7a) Dr. (13) Syngman Rhee, (9,10) a U.S. – educated intellectual and former independence fighter, (10) OR Rhee’s supporters included Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese. (7a) The first elections in Korea (10) supervised by the UN (7b,13) at the urging of the United States, (14) were carried out on May 10th 1948, and he was elected (10,13) the first President of the Republic of Korea in 1948. (9, 10) His government was recognised as the legal government of a united Korea by all states except the USSR. (7b) It is now referred to as the First Republic of South Korea. (16) On August 15th (9,10) 1948 (5,6) the people in the south made an independent (5,6) republic (6) called South Korea. (5,6) OR the Republic of Korea (R. O. K.). (9,12) Seoul was the capital. (14) Korea became two countries, one Communist, and one Democratic. (15) The United States assisted this process (5,8a) and became allied to South Korea. (6) The US backed Syngman Rhee and (11) controlled Korea south of the line. (7) In response to Rhee’s regime, (7b) [but they had already formed a government in 1946?] the North Koreans formed (7b,13) a separate (12,13) Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (9,12) on September 9th (9,13) 1948 (9,12) The DPRK was (9) a pro-Soviet (8) communist (8,8a) government based in Pyongyang (8) under Kim Il Sung, (8,9) a communist who had been trained in the USSR. (10a) It was set up by the people of North Korea (2,5) with Soviet support. (2,5) OR the Russians (7,8) made it (2,5) a Communist (6,7) country, (2,5) The Soviet Union helped the people of North Korea, (2,5) and dominated the country, (2,6) though they withdrew from the North in 1948. (8)

Meanwhile Germany had been divided into four parts, controlled by the USA, the USSR, Britain and France. (NS2) The capital city of Berlin, though lying in the Russian ‘zone’, was also divided into four bits in the same way. (NS2) Stalin did not like having a capitalist area in the middle of his zone, so in 1948 he suddenly closed the roads leading to Berlin from the western ‘zones’, where they entered the Russian zone. (NS2)

In 1949 Kim Gu, a Korean Nationalist who believed in, and fought for, a unified Korea, and strongly objected to the formation of a separate South Korean state, was shot in his home by a South Korean Army lieutenant. (16) By mid- (12) or the end of (8a) 1949 all Soviet and American troops were withdrawn, (8a,12) and two rival Korean governments were in operation. (12) America had left military advisers in South Korea and granted 150 million dollars aid. (8a) The US and Soviet Union refused to make a final settlement. (5) Relations between the two states rapidly became very bad (7b,11) as both claimed to be the true representative of the Korean people, (7b) and therefore the right to unify the country under its own rule. (12) The communist North and republican South failed to reach accords over united rule. (11) Rather than achieving independence Korea found itself a country divided by ideological differences. (10) Korea had thus fallen victim to the Cold War. (7,10) In Berlin the west sent supplies in by air for so long that the Russians gave in and re-opened the roads in 1949. (NS2) The situation became (8a,NS2) more complicated and (NS2) more dangerous in American eyes when the Communist (8a,NS2) Mao Zedong gained control of China m 1949 (8a,NS2) and created the communist ‘People’s Republic of China’. (NS2) For this reason America blocked the admission of China to the United Nations. (8a)

After two years of military confrontation along the border, (6) North Korea’s military leader, Kim Il-sung, wanted to invade South Korea and unite the country under a communist banner. (8) He made persistent appeals to the USSR, (7b) and travelled to Moscow to confer with Stalin. (7c) Stalin’s primary goal in foreign policy was security and this involved avoiding open frontiers between Communist and non-Communist regimes. (7c) This was not a new departure on the part of Stalin but was part and parcel of a traditional Russian concern with penetrating countries on its periphery. (7c) Stalin gave his assent to the invasion of South Korea. (7b, 7c) OR Joseph Stalin refused to support the idea, (8) and made it clear that the Soviet Union would not be drawn into the conflict. (7c) OR suddenly withdrew support from the North. (11) China was kept in the dark about the impending attack. (7c)

The Korean War 1950-53

  • Outbreak

Without any particular provocation (10), North Korea went to war against South Korea, (2,6) attempting a forcible unification of North and South. (13) Soviet-backed (14) North Korean troops suddenly (6,7) and by surprise (11,12) attacked the south (6,7) in the early hours of (13) June, (6,9) 25th (9,10) 1950 (4,5) OR 1953 (2) This was the Korean War. (5,7) It was the first major conflict of the Cold War. (2) It was assumed at the time that it had been instigated by Moscow to test Western resolve, but the moving spirit was North Korea. (7c) It took place because the South wanted democracy, and the North wanted to form communism. (1) It was a long and suffering war, (1) so it was kind of like a depression time for Korea. (1,3) The outbreak of the War offered the US her first opportunity since the outbreak of the Cold War of militarily stemming the advance of communism. (7c,NS2)

  • American intervention

Two days after the war began, US President Truman ordered American armed forces to come to the aid of the South Korean military, (8,8a) giving it ‘cover and support’ (8a) in the form of advisers, supplies and warships. (10a) Truman expressed the US fear of China (8a, NS2) in a speech justifying his action he voiced American fears that ‘Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed intervention and war.’ (8a) US troops arrived on 30th June. (15) Besides intervening in Korea the US also decided to defend Taiwan against attack by the People’s Republic. (7c)

  • United Nations involvement

The matter was taken to the UN. (7c) The USA was the single biggest contributor to the UN budget and Truman put enormous pressure on the UN Security Council to condemn the actions of the North Koreans and to call on than to withdraw their troops. (10a) The Americans proposed that the United Nations intervene to restore peace. (8a) The majority in the United Nations supported America’s policy. (7c,8a) The USSR was boycotting the UN this time. (10a) When China became Communist in 1949? the USA had blocked its entry to the United Nations Nations, since it regarded the Nationalists (Chiang Kai-shek and his followers) as the right government of China. (10a) The USSR had walked out of the UN in protest, so when the resolution passed, the USSR was not at the meeting to use its veto (10a) so the Security Council decided (7c) to invite members to help the south (15) forming a UN force to resist the North Korean attack. (7c,15) This was called a ‘police action’ to repulse the advance, (7) The UN was now committed to using member forces to drive North Korean troops out of South Korea, (10a) and the US-led force (9,11) fought under the UN flag. (7c) The U.N. Security Council approved member-state assistance to the South (8,9) over the objection of the Soviet representative. (8) OR The Soviet Union did not use its veto because it had been boycotting the UN ever since January 1950, arguing that the People’s Republic of China should occupy the seat assigned to China. (7c) In the Cold War atmosphere of 1950, each superpower always denounced and opposed the action of the other. (10a) Russian and Chinese Communists reacted promptly, seeing American help to the South as clear evidence of aggres­sion. (8a) Mao Tse-tung said it was good to see the ‘true American face’ and that the peoples of Asia ‘Will neither be bought by American imperialism nor duped by it’. (8a) A 17- (8a) OR 16- (9,13) OR 14-member (8) coalition (8,9) sent troops. (6,8) US (9,11) forces stationed in Japan, (11) undertook the first collective (9) action under United Nations Command (9,11) (UNC). (9) In fact, because of its great resources, (8a) Most (7,8a) in fact 95 per cent of the (8a) troops on the UN side were American. (6,7) 90,000 (7) British soldiers were involved, (7,15) many of them conscripts. (7) The commander of the United Nations force was an American, General MacArthur. (8a,13) Of course Russia and its supporters would not help. (8a) Despite American aid to the South, the war went very well for the North at first. (8) The North Koreans quickly took most of the South, (7,8) They captured Seoul, (15) and by August, within the first two months of fighting, the defenders (8,16) including the US (15) and UN units (15) were hemmed in at the city of Busan, (8,15) OR Pusan (16) on the southeastern tip of South Korea. (8) The North Korean army was not able to break through the Busan Perimeter, however, even after a solid month of battle. (8)

  • UN advance north

Slowly, the tide began to turn against the North. (8) The first British troops arrived in Korea on 14th September to reinforce the Americans. (15) On 15th (15) September (15,16) other US (15) and UN (16) troops (15,16) made an Amphibious (16) Landing (15,16) at Incheon (15) OR Inchon, (16) 150 miles north of Busan. (15) The soldiers in the Busan area broke out and pushed north and linked up with the troops in Incheon on 26th September. (15) On the same day allied troops liberated Seoul. (15) In September and October of 1950, (8,15) Allied (6,8) South Korean and U.N. (8) forces pushed the North Koreans back (6,8) across the 38th Parallel. (8,11) By 24th November they controlled about 2/3 of North Korea (15) and were approaching the Chinese border. (8,11)

  • Chinese intervention

This was too much for Mao, who (8,11) had only established his rule in 1949 (11) and feared an attack upon China. (6) In November, (7b,7c) the People’s Republic of (6) China sent (6,8) 180,000 (15) OR 250,000 (11) OR huge numbers of (6,11) troops to aid North Korea. (6,8) They dramatically halted the US advance. (7b) Moscow deliberately abstained in the Korean affair since Stalin did not desire a confrontation with the United States. (7c,8a) OR China and the Soviet Union lent their military might to North Korea. (7b,13) Stalin’s support was limited: Soviet fighter planes, which were painted in Chinese colours and flown by Soviet pilots in Chinese uniform, defended the Yalu river crossings and gave some limited air support to the Chinese army. (7b) The communist counter-attack drove the allies south. (11,15) After heavy fighting in freezing weather, (11) UN forces were pushed below the 38th parallel (11,15) by the end of 1950. (15) The communists attacked again on 1st January 1951. (15) OR China withdrew, but then came in again when (7c) the Americans continued their advance (7c,15) on 25th January and on 14th March they again liberated Seoul. (15) Several communist offensives followed but all of them were repulsed. (15) The Chinese communists were alarmed by (11) threats of nuclear war from US General (7b,11) Douglas (11) MacArthur. (7b, 11) President Truman rejected his advice (7b) and he was soon recalled from the conflict. (11) The Chinese counter-attack was eventually halted some 70 miles into South Korea in 1951, (7b) and by early 1951 the war was stalemated (6,9) along the old border. (6,7c)

  • Peacemaking

Armistice negotiations were initiated (6,9) in July 1951 (9) but they took two years to complete. (6) In the meantime battles raged and many lives were lost. (6) It was a tragedy. (1,4) Everybody had hard times. (1) There was severe hardship, loss of life, and enormous devastation, (12) and finally (1) after millions of young men joined the army (1,4) and served their duty, the two Koreas split up. (1) After three years of bitter fighting, (8) and the death of Stalin, (7c,HN) on March 1st 1953 (HN) the war ended on (4,5) July (7,8) 27th (8,9) 1953 (4,5) when, exhausted and pretty sure that Korea would perish forever, (1) the two sides signed an armistice, (5,8) OR ‘the Armistice Agreement was signed by representatives of the Korean People’s Army, the Chinese People’s Volunteers, and the US-led UNC’ (9) at Panmunjom, (9) (or Panmunjeom 13) in what is now the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). (9,13) This was an agreement to rest before going back to war. (1,7) The Armistice Agreement was signed by representatives of the Korean People’s Army, the Chinese People’s Volunteers, and the US-led UNC. (9) Though the R.O.K. supported the UNC, it refused to sign the Armistice Agreement. (9) The armistice remains in effect today, (11) but it was not a peace treaty, and none has ever been signed. (5,8) The armistice was signed on the basis of the status quo ante, (7c) and the frontier was defined as a line running from the Han estuary generally northeast across the 38th parallel to a point south of Kosong (Kuum-ni) (12) The two sides remain separated by a 2.5-mile wide demilitarized zone (DMZ). (8,12) 1.24 mi (2 km) wide and occupying a total of 487 sq mi (1,261 sq km), on either side of the boundary. (12) It roughly follows the 38th parallel for 150 miles across the peninsula. (14) On its northern edge there is a huge fence with army officers and watchdogs lined up against the sad-looking roll of barbed wire. (1) The western border in the ocean, though, was not defined, and fighting has occasionally occurred at sea. (12) On 12th November a Summit conference for normalization of Korean-Japanese relations was held. (16)

Aftermath of War

The War had ended in a stalemate. (6,8) The peninsula remained divided at the 38th parallel the way it had been divided by the Soviets and US after the Second World War. (4,5) No land was lost or gained. (5,7) Fifty thousand Americans (6) and more than 1,000 British soldiers (7) died in the war, (6) as did millions of Koreans on both sides. (6) Koreans tasted the tragedy of fratricide (3) as 2.5 million (7,14) almost three million (9) over 3 million (4,6) or 4 million (8) people were killed (4,6) or wounded. (9) The DMZ, this once devastated battleground, is now essentially a nature preserve, covered by forests, estuaries and wetlands housing hundreds of bird, fish and mammal species. (14) South Korea was destroyed by the war, (4,6) its industries and agriculture ruined. (6) North Korea was equally badly affected. (4,10) They split up (1,5) into two countries: North Korea (also called the DPRK or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and South Korea (also called the Republic of Korea). (5) Many people lost their native homes (1,9) and were separated from (9) beloved family members. (1) Korea ranked among the poorest countries. (10) The Korean War and the American decision to side with Chiang Kai-shek produced the bitter hostility between China and the US which was to last a generation. (7c) The US attitude towards communism In Asia hardened during the war and the momentous decision to intervene in Indo-China and elsewhere if necessary was almost automatic. (7c) The war confirmed the Communist belief that the United Nations was biased against them. (8a) It showed that already China was powerful enough to threaten American se­curity in the Far East. (8a) It also revealed that-Russia was still strategically weaker than America. (8a) America could reach Russian targets from its ring of air bases in Asia and Europe. (8a) Russia could not reach America easily. (8a) It was only just developing a solution to this problem—the ICBMs. (8a)


Post War: The Republic of Korea – 1. Syngman Rhee

In the fifty years after the war (3) both countries were forced to make extraordinary efforts to recover from it. (4) The war had heightened hostile feelings between the North and South, making reunification a difficult task. (13) Beginning in 1954, the Rhee Syngman Government focused on developing an anti-communist politics. (13) Throughout the 1950s and 60s an uneasy truce with North Korea prevailed; thousands of soldiers were poised on each side of the demilitarized zone, and there were occasional shooting incidents. (12) Despite the disasters, the Republic of Korea made steady progress, and continues to make efforts to unify Korea’s territory and people. (3) Rhee’s foresight was instrumental in establishing a separate government in South Korea, laying the groundwork for a democracy and a market economy. (10) Democracy did not flourish in South Korea in the 1950s. (15) Syngman Rhee used a national security law of 1949 to close newspapers and imprison critics. (15) South Korea’s economy prospered under a series of capitalist dictatorships. (7) OR By 1960 South Korea was facing growing economic problems. (15) It experienced political turmoil (9) under its autocratic leadership. (9,15) Syngman Rhee’s administration was corrupt (15) In April (9,16) 1960, students (9,10) forged an anti-government movement, the 4.19 Revolution (13) against the illegitimate prolongation (10,13) and election frauds (10, NS1) of Syngman Rhee’s Government. (9,10) The students rioted. (15,NS1) Over a hundred people were killed, and the army chief Song Yo Chan told Rhee that the army would not support the police if there were new riots. (NS1) Despite his historic contribution,(10) President Syngman Rhee (9,10) who had been a leader of the provisional government in Shanghai (11) was forced to resign (9,10) by the riots. (15,NS1) On July 23rd, 1960, a new election law was enacted, and Yun Bo-seon was elected president. (13) Syngman Rhee resigned and went into exile. (16)

Post War: The Republic of Korea – 2. Chang Myon and Park Chung Hee 1960-79

South Korea then fell under the rule of a series of military dictators. (11) During the Second Republic under the leadership of Chang Myon (9) OR Yun Bo-seon (13) there was inflation and unemployment, and riots continued. (15) South Korea was poor, relatively undeveloped country. (15) The government (9,13) of the Second Republic (16) was toppled by a military coup (9,13) on May 16th (13,16) 1961. (9,13) Major General (9) or General (10,15) Park Chung Hee (9,10) led the coup (9) and became leader (13,15) as acting president. (13) He declared martial law, (15) but in 1963 he held presidential elections and won. (13,15) He ruled with an iron fist (11,13) for the next 17 years. (13)

Meanwhile capitalist West Berlin was prosperous and full of life. (NS2) Communist East Berlin was run down and poor. (NS2) Many people tried to escape from communism into the west. (NS2) In 1961 the communists built a wall right round West Berlin to stop this, and many people were shot trying to get across it. (NS2) In 1961 the USA tried unsuccessfully to overthrow Fidel Castro, a communist who had come to power in the island of Cuba. (NS2) In 1962 the USSR tried to install nuclear missiles on Cuba. (NS2) The American President Kennedy ordered American warships to block the ships carrying the missiles. (NS2) A nuclear war seemed likely, but Stalin’s successor Khrushchev backed down. (NS2)

The South Korean economy, which had been lagging behind that of North Korea, now began to improve under Park, who believed that economic growth came before democracy. (11) In the 1960s General Park built roads and bridges and expanded education. (15) The state played a large part in the transformation. (15,16) Starting in 1962 (16) a series of 5 year plans were drawn up and the government took a central role in running the economy. (15,16) Growth was linked with strong government support for (11,15) a handful of (11) super-companies (11,15) (like Samsung, Daewoo, LG, and Hyundai) (11) known as chaebol. (11,15)

During the 1950s French Indo-China had been overthrown by Communists, who established a country called North Vietnam. (NS2) South Vietnam remained non-communist, like South Korea. (NS2) In 1964 a war had began in Vietnam. (NS2) The Americans tried to stop South Vietnam being overrun by communists. (NS2) They feared that if Vietnam fell, many other countries would follow it and become communist. (NS2) South Korea joined the Vietnam War on the American side in 1964. (16)

Out of the ashes of the Korean War the South Koreans built a strong industrial state with a high standard of living. (3,6) Its industrial development has made it into one of the top 11 trading countries in the world and its enterprises and labour power capabilities have made inroads overseas, and it now ranks as an advanced nation. (3) The rapid development of Korean communities in foreign countries is another special feature in this growth. (3) On 22nd June South Korea signed a Treaty on Basic Relations with Japan. (16) This was controversial, but secured finance for later economic developments. (16) The second Five-year plan began in 1967 (16) and Park was re-elected. (15): On 1st April 1968 the Pohang Iron and Steel Company was established. (16) On 21st January 1968 North Korean commandos made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Park Chung Hee, in what was known as the Blue House Raid. (16) On 5th December 1968 the National Education Charter was proclaimed. (16)

Park’s rule resulted in tremendous economic growth and development (9,10) from the mid 1960s (15) which was so remarkable that it earned the name “the Miracle on the Han River.” (10) On 22nd April (16) 1970: Park’s ‘Saemaeul Undong’ (New Community Movement, an effort to modernize Korea) (13,16) brought about much progress in South Korea, and the systematic approach to economic development also yielded increased exports and positive returns. (13) The Gyeongbu Expressway (Seoul – Busan) was completed and opened to traffic in 1970. (16) Park won a third election in 1971, though by only by a small margin. (15) Afterwards he drew up a new constitution which gave him more power. (15) In 1971 negotiations between North and South Korea provided the first hope for peaceful reunification of the peninsula. (12) In 1972 the third Five-year plan began. (16) On July 4th 1972 a South-North joint communiqué regarding the reunification of the Korean Peninsula was signed. (13) On 12th August the first Red Cross talks between North and South Korea were held, and President Park declared Emergency Martial Law and changed the constitution to allow him to become the permanent ruler. (16) This resembled the Gojong of the Korean Empire, and stated his country’s governmental system as ‘autocratic’ in the constitution- for greater leadership and less opposition. (16) In November, an agreement was reached for the establishment of joint machinery to work toward unification. (12) On 15th August 1974 first lady Yuk Young-soo was assassinated by a self-proclaimed North Korean Mun Segwang. (16) Meanwhile in the Vietnam War, in spite of all their money and weapons, the Americans were failing and were eventually driven out, and Vietnam became communist in 1975. (NS2) After the end of the Vietnam war the arms race slowed down, and ‘Cold War’ became less fierce. (NS2) The US President Nixon visited China, and people said there was a mood of ‘Detente’2. (NS2) In keeping with this in 18th August 1976 the ‘Axe Murder Incident’ in the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom, triggered the first official apology to the South by former (?) North Korean leader Kim il-sung. (16) This helped the improvement in the South Korean economy which continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s, (9,11) On 12th October1976 rice imports were discontinued, marking the accomplishment of total self-sufficiency in rice by South Korea. (16) The fourth Five-year plan began in 1977, and on 22nd December the country celebrated the earning of 10 billion dollars by exports. (16) On 26th October 1978 a third underground tunnel designed to facilitate a North Korean attack was discovered. (16) On 10th December the South Korean GNP reached $1,117 (? Billion?). (16) With one of the absolute highest literacy rates in the world, the economically well-off and educated middle-class, (11) South Korea developed a vocal civil society that led to strong (9) protests against authoritarian rule. (9,11) In 1979 American president Jimmy Carter visited Korea and threatened to reduce the US forces in Korea if Park did not stop the ongoing Nuclear Weapons Development project. (16) Thousands of university students became involved in protracted protests and struggles –some which were put down with violence. (11) By the late 1980s, the military government was replaced by democratically elected leaders. (11) Cries for democracy arose from the people. (9,11) OR ‘from students (9,11) and labour union activists’ (9) Park’s regime increasingly restricted political freedoms, and ended with his assassination (9,10) on 26th (16) October (15,16) 1979. (9,10) by the chief of KCIA, Kim Jaegyu. (16)

Post War: The Republic of Korea – 3. Chun Doo-hwan 1979-1987

After the assassination of General Park in 1979 the army again stepped in to restore order. (9,15) On 12th December, (16) 1979, (9,16) Lieutenant General (9) Chun Doo-hwan conducted a coup in (9,10) OR May (15) 1980. (13,15) He declared martial law (9,15) and arrested his opponents. (15) He was backed by a powerful group of military officers. (9) Chun ruled South Korea, (9,10) with an authoritarian slant, as had been the case with former rulers. (13,16) Martial Law was declared throughout the nation. (16) Protest reached a climax (9,10) when between 18th and 27th May (9,10) demonstrations against Chun were held in the city of Gwangju. (9,15) They were led by students. (15) The army crushed the protests by force, (15) Some reports claimed over 100 casualties (16) OR hundreds of people were killed. (9,15) The problems blocking complete reunification, however, continued to be substantial. (12) In 1983 a bomb killed several members of the South Korean government. (12) North and South Korea met several times during the 1980s to discuss reunification, but in 1987 a South Korean airliner was destroyed over the Thailand-Myanmar border. (12) In the 1980s the Korean economy continued to grow and the country climbed out of poverty. (15) South Korea became an affluent society, (15) but from the mid 1980s (15) there was increasing unrest (9,15) led by students unhappy with the regime. (15,16) Pro-democracy activities intensified. (9,13) In 1987 Christian leaders spoke out against the regime (15) and many people held mass demonstrations (13,15) A student uprising began the June Democracy Movement, (16) which forced political concessions by the government in 1987, (9) including the restoration of direct presidential elections. (9,10) General Chun agreed to step down and democratic elections were held. (15) The elections resulted in the election of another former general, Roh Tae-woo. (9,10) Chun’s rule came to an end.(9,13) Thus ended the autocratic Fifth Republic of South Korea. (16)

Post War: The Republic of Korea – 4. Roh Tae-woo and Kim Young-sam

In 1988, the Roh Tae-woo government started off the year on a good note (13) by successfully hosting (3,10) the 24th (16) Olympics in Seoul. (3,10) This brought South Korea into the international limelight. (15) The event was made possible through the world’s recognition of the cultural advances in Korea. (3) In 1990 there were three meetings between the prime ministers of North and South Korea. (12) These talks yielded some results, such as the exchange of family visits organized in 1989. (12) At this point occurred the collapse of the USSR. (NS2) Germany was reunited: the Cold War was over. (NS2) As a result on 11th September 1990 South Korea and the USSR establish diplomatic relations. (16) Roh’s government went on to join the UN in (13,16) September (16) 1991. (13,16) as did North Korea. (16) On 24th August 1992 South Korea even established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). (16) Additional democratic advances during Roh Tae-woo’s tenure resulted in the 1992 election of a long-time pro-democracy activist, (9) Kim Young-sam. (9,13) Thus it was only in 1993 when civilian democracy was restored. (10,13) Kim became Korea’s first civilian elected president in 32 years. (9) The Kim Young-sam Government, implemented a new system in which people were required to use their real names when making financial transactions, a much needed reform at the time. (13) In the 1990s the government began to deregulate industry. (15) The 1997 (9) or 1998 (13) presidential election and peaceful transition of power marked another step forward in Korea’s democratization (9) when Kim Dae-jung, (9,13) a life-long democracy and human rights activist, (9) was elected (9,13) from a major opposition party. (9) Thus by the 1990s, (6,9) along with economic development (3,6) South Koreans also built a fully (6) democratic western-style government. (6,7) Culturally, Korea has now become an influence in the world. (3) National education has greatly expanded and science, arts and technologies have also developed. (3) These remarkable transformations shows Koreans’ willingness to adapt outside ideas and to make them part of their culture. (6) In 1996, North Korea said it would cease to recognize the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, and North Korean troops made incursions into the zone. (12) President Kim threw his efforts into overcoming the IMF financial catastrophe that hit Asia in 1997. (13) In 1998 North Korea opened Geumgang Mountain to South Korean tourists. (13) In 1999 a North Korean torpedo boat was sunk by a South Korean vessel in South Korean waters following a gun battle. (12) In early 2000, however, the North engaged in talks with a number of Western nations, seeking diplomatic relations, (12) and South and North agreed to a presidential summit in 2000 (12,13) in Pyongyang. (12) The historic and cordial meeting produced an accord that called for working toward reunification (though without specifying how) and for permitting visits between families long divided as a result of the war. (12) President Kim Dae Jung won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his work in building peaceful relations with North Korea, (6,13) known as his ‘Sunshine Policy’. (13) Given the emotional appeal of reunification, it is likely that the North-South dialogue will continue, despite the problems involved; however, tensions developed in late 2002. (12) There was another deadly naval confrontation following a North Korean incursion. (12) The resulting increased tension derailed any significant further reunification talks. (12) President Kim hosted the 17th FIFA World Cup in 2002. (10,13) jointly with Japan. (16) The Korean National Team made it to the semi-finals for the first time in Korean history. (16)

Post-War The Republic of Korea – 5: Roh Moo Hyun & Lee Myung-bak

The transition to an open, democratic system was further consolidated in 2002, when self-educated human rights lawyer, (9) Roh Moo-hyun, won the presidential election (9,13) on a “participatory government” platform. (9) The Roh Moo-hyun Administration, which came into office in 2003, aspired to be a participatory government where public engagement played a key role. (13) Key outcomes of the Roh Administration included a human resources policy targeting young and open-minded people, the liquidation of authoritarianism, and growth of the civil society. (13) Korea co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup soccer games with Japan. (10) The second round summit talks between South and North Korea also took place under his administration. (13) Economic contacts with the North continued to expand, however, and South Korea became a significant trade partner of the North. (12) The North also received substantial aid from the South. (12) In that year a rail crossing through the DMZ was symbolically reopened when two trains made test runs on the rebuilt track; regular rail service, over a short line, began late in the year. (12) A second North-South presidential summit (12,13) in Pyongyang occurred in August (12) 2007 (12,13); both leaders called for negotiations on a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War. (12) Relations between the two nations subsequently soured, as a result of the election (12) in December (9) 2007, of Lee Myung-bak, (9,12) a former business executive and Mayor of Seoul, (9) as the 17th (13) president of South Korea (9,12) and the sinking (2010) of a South Korean naval vessel by the North. (12) Most joint projects came to an end, and trade between the two nations greatly decreased by 2010. (12) President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008. (13) His administration pursued change and pragmatism, and actively undertook the privatization of public corporations and passage of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). (13) In 2008 a woman named Yi So Yeon became the first Korean to travel in space, which was another milestone in the countries development. (15) The administration successfully hosted the G20 Seoul Summit, (10,13) in 2010, (10) the Nuclear Security Summit, and other major events. (13)

On 19th December 2012 (16) Park Geun-hye (13,15) daughter of Park Chung-hee, (13,16) (the the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th president, (13) was elected as first female president of South Korea. (16) On February 25,2013 she took oath and was inaugurated as the 18th (13) or 11th (16) president of Korea. (13,16) She is the first female president since the establishment of the Korean Government. (13,15) She is also a daughter of Park Chung-hee. (13) The Park Geun-hye Government places the first priority on establishment of fair trade as well as political, legislative, and prosecution reform. (13) It also focuses on reducing households’ debt, developing measures to deal with youth unemployment, and improving the welfare. (13) Although corruption has plagued the new Korean politics, the voting rate is high and the public enthusiastically participates in election and issues-related politics. (11) Today, its economy is the 15th largest in the world, and the nation is poised to become an active player on the global economic stage following the hosting of the G20 Summit. (10) The Republic of Korea has steadily followed the path to mature democracy and economic prosperity. (10) Even though the legacies of the Cold War still linger on this peninsula and global economic crises have affected it, South Korea has been demonstrating remarkable resilience in coping with these challenges and looks forward to an even brighter future. (10) The legacy of the dark 20th century has left South Korea’s security guaranteed by an American defence treaty, (7) and many U.S. troops still remain in the South, though their numbers have decreased since the 1960s and the number of U.S. bases has been greatly reduced. (12)

Post War – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 1. Kim Il Sung

In the decades following the Korean War, (4,8) North Korea’s government focused on industrialization as it rebuilt the battle-torn country. (8) Its first leader was Kim Il-Sung. (4,7) North Korea saw the development of a personality cult around its leader Kim Il Sung that still exists today. (4,14) North Koreans referred to him, variously, as Great Leader, Heavenly Leader and even the “Sun”. (14) A new calendar was introduced, which used 1912—the year of Kim Il-Sung’s birth—as year one. (14) Every elementary school in the country was equipped with a special training room where (14) young children were indoctrinated in the regime’s teachings (14,15) and taught to see Kim as the fount of all wisdom. (15) As president, Kim Il-Sung preached the idea of juche, or “self-reliance”: (8,11) North Korea would become strong by producing all of its own food, technology and domestic needs, rather than importing goods from abroad. (8) Under this the economy of North Korea improved fairly rapidly. (11) At the same time he created a very repressive regime. (15) Religious belief was outlawed and the people strictly controlled. (15) North Korea’s foreign policy has been marked by two significant alliances, with China and the Soviet Union. (14) and Economic support from the USSR (11,15) resumed after the Korean War, (11) and North Korea was transformed from a poor agricultural country into an industrial one. (15) However in the mid 1970s the economy began to stagnate and North Korea was overtaken by the south. (15) North Korea has been consistently hostile to South Korea and the United States, (14) but after the signing of a South-North joint communiqué regarding the reunification of the Korean Peninsula on July 4th, 1972, South and North Korea continued efforts towards a peaceful coexistence and reunification. (13) Despite the fact that North Korea is generally a poor and isolated nation, it has been pursuing nuclear research for decades, at first in collaboration with the Soviet Union and later on its own. (14) In 1993 the DPRK tested a medium range ballistic missile called the Rodong-1, which was a single stage, liquid fuelled weapon. (16) Between 1953 and 1973 North Korea saw two of its main allies change their policies towards her. (4) North Korea’s ally Communist Russia had seemed strong, but there were serious hidden weaknesses. (NS2) Communism did not produce enough wealth to buy new weapons which Russia needed. (NS2) The Americans announced that they could destroy Russian rockets in space, and the Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev knew that Russia could not afford to pay for weapons to beat this. (NS2) He gave up the Cold War. (NS2) In 1989 crowds in Berlin tore down the Berlin Wall, while the guards stood and watched. (NS2) The Eastern European communist states became independent of the USSR, and the USSR itself broke up when the Ukraine and Belarus and many of the southern regions voted for independence from it. (NS2) This collapse of the Soviet Union (11,14) in 1989 (11,NS2) and withdrawal of the aid which it had given (11) was very bad news for North Korea. (11,15) Economic hardship there was intensified. (11) The “Great Leader” (11) Kim Il Sung passed away (4,11) in 1994 (11,14) — ushering in a three-year period of mourning. (11) His cult lives on: In 1998, North Korea’s constitution was amended to proclaim him the Eternal President of the Republic, and the anniversaries of both his birth and death are considered national holidays. (14) Russia ceded its influence to China. (7)

Post War – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 2. Kim Jong-Il, 1994-2012

His son (14,15) Kim Jong Il came to power. (4,11) He was also at the centre of a personality cult, with some North Koreans convinced he was even powerful enough to control the weather. (14) As the Republic of Korea in the south blossomed during the 1980s and early 1990s, (11) the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea saw itself in what is called “The Arduous March”: (4,16) In 1998: Taepodong-1, a two-stage intermediate-range ballistic missile is developed and tested by the DPRK. (16) End of the Arduous March. (16) It is possible that up to 3.5 million people did not survive the ‘march’. (16) Its economy stagnated (4,11) and turned even more inward. (11) North Korea remains an economic basket case (7) and poverty and starvation is common. (2) In the late 1990s a severe famine occurred. (15) There were unusually heavy rain and floods in 1995-96, followed by a drought in 1997 and typhoon damage in 1997. (15) Malnutrition became common especially among children. (15) How many people died in the famine is not known as information is very hard to come by but some estimates put it at one million. (15) The food shortages dragged on through the 1990s. (15) Freedoms are severely limited. (2,15) It is a police state which has been ruled by the same family for three generations. (7,14) It is still a communist country (2) and keeps itself isolated from the rest of the world. (2,11) Under the Kims, North Korea remained isolated from the international community, (14,15) with its governmental, economic and other operations veiled in secrecy. (14) North Korea is often referred to as a “hermit kingdom.” (14) Restrictions on travel into or out of the country and a tightly controlled press helped maintain this isolation. (14) The collapse of the Soviet Union left China as the country’s only major ally, (14) and North Korea has a military pact with China in the event of it being attacked. (7) North Korea has long been seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. (11,14) In 1999 the DPRK promised to freeze long-range missile tests, (16) and Kim Jong Il’s government initially pledged to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but by the early 21st century reports had surfaced of underground nuclear facilities and ongoing research into the production of highly enriched uranium. (14) A thriving illegal trade, including black-market arms sold to Iran and other countries, also appears to help finance the country and its nuclear program. (14) China is a key player in problems on the Korean peninsula, as she has retained ties with North Korea (11) (and established new ties with the South (11,16)), and may eventually serve as a model to follow in economic liberalization. (11) Tensions between the North and South are always high and the threat of war is constant, (2) but during the 2000s, for the first time ever, presidents of South Korea visited North Korea, (4) and in 2002 several special economic zones (SEZ) similar to the experimental capitalist zones created in China in the early 1980s, were established in places like Sinuiju and Gaesung. (11) In the 1990s South Korea made some attempt to normalise relations with the north but Korea remains a deeply divided nation. (15) In 2002 the DPRK pledged to extend moratorium on missile tests beyond 2003, (16) but it withdrew from the Non-Proliferation-Treaty in 2003 and openly resumed nuclear research at a facility in Yongbyon. (14) In 2004 the DPRK reaffirmed the moratorium on missile tests, but in 2005 it fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan (East Sea), and in 2006 it tested Taepodong-2, a successor of Taepodong-1. (16) In 2006 (14,16), after multi-national nuclear talks stalled, North Korea announced it had carried out its first underground (14) nuclear test; (14,16) US officials asserted that it might have been a misfire. (16) In 2007 a second summit between DPRK and ROK leaders is held, with Roh Moo-hyun representing the south and Kim Jong Il the north. (16) In that year the DPRK fired another short-range missile into the Sea of Japan. (16) In 2008 a South Korean tourist, a women in about her 50s, was shot down by a DPRK soldier for ‘going into military territory’ at 4 am, in the Keumgang Mountain Tourist Region. (16) This caused immediate uproar and all tourism into North Korea was suspended. (16) A second, (14,16) more powerful (14) nuclear test went ahead in May 2009 (14,16) and North Korea launched a rocket supposedly intended for space exploration. (16) This move affects relationships with Japan, the United States, South Korea (11,16) Russia and China, (11) who are all involved in varying degrees in the power-equation of the region. (11) In 2010 North Korea launched a missile and attacked a South Korean Pohang class corvette, ROKS Cheonan. (16) 46 soldiers died in the attack. (16) In November, the North Korean army rained artillery fire on Yeon-Pyeong-Do island, and conducted yet another nuclear test. (16) Kim Jong-il died in (13,14) December (13) 2011 after 17 years in power. (13,14) The deaths of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were met by an outpouring of emotion from the populace, and both received massive state funerals. (14) Hundreds of memorial statues dedicated to Kim Il Sung (14,15) and his son (14) dot the countryside, (14,15) and despite a series of devastating famines and systemic poverty, a massive mausoleum was built on the outskirts of Pyongyang to house the embalmed bodies of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il, now permanently on display like many autocratic leaders before them. (14)

Post War – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: 3. Kim Jong-Un

The Communists have created a new dynasty, (15) and Kim Jong-Il’s son Kim Jong-un took power (13,14) as the Supreme Leader of North Korea. (16) The South Korean National Intelligence Service discovered Communist spies who had been working underground for the DPRK for almost 10 years. (16) One of the members was a former Democratic Party representative. (16) Their mission was to influence that party and extract military secret information. (16) On 13th April 2012 the DPRK tested a rocket, officially called “Unha-3”, an expendable launch system developed from the Soviet Scud rockets. (16) The rocket was to send a satellite, called “Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3”, into orbit. (16) The rocket failed to launch the satellite and fell into the Yellow Sea. (16) The mission ultimately ended in complete failure. (16) On 12th December 2012 the DPRK successfully launch a Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 missile from the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground. (16) The South Koreans observed that all three stages fired, and the DPRK confirmed this. (16) 2013 the people of North Korea still face terrible hardship and even starvation as well as brutal political oppression. (15) Today the population of North Korea is 22 million while the population of South Korea is 48 million. (15) It is difficult to get reliable information on North Korea’s economy, but according to US government estimates, industry (including electrical power, military products, machine building, chemicals, mining and metallurgy) accounts for half of its GDP, along with services and tourism. (14) Communism was based on the ideas of Karl Marx (1818-1883). (15) According to him society went through an inevitable series of stages ending in Communism. (15) The workers, he said, would inevitably rise up against the capitalists and Capitalism would be replaced by Socialism in which the state would own industry. (15) However the state would ‘wither away’ leaving a classless society or Communism. (15) Needless to say the promised utopia never materialised. (15) Marxism was a foolish dream. (15) Today North Korea is the last Stalinist regime in the world. (15) Even China has adopted capitalism, though it is a state directed one rather like Park’s in South Korea. (HN) The defiant statements and aggressive actions of Kim Jong-Un, has threatened even North Korea’s alliance with China. (14) In February 2013, the country confirmed that it had conducted a third nuclear test, prompting sanctions from the UN Security Council and a formal protest from its only major ally and main trading partner, China. (14) The latest crisis may be the result of a new leader making his mark on the world stage. (14) In March, North Korea declared the 60-year-old Korean War armistice void, and it has been cutting its industrial ties with South Korea as well as communication with the government in Seoul. (14) Some observers have suggested that as a young, untested premier, Kim Jong-Un (who is believed to be about 30 years old) wants to prove himself as a leader, and needs the support of North Korean military brass. (14) As this argument goes, the recent pattern of aggression is mainly a show for his domestic audience, rather than a genuine threat to global security. (14) Though the Defense Intelligence Agency (the intelligence arm of the Pentagon) said last week that it had “moderate confidence” that North Korea has learned to make a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic weapon, other intelligence agencies have not confirmed this conclusion. (14) Still, North Korea’s escalating threats have put the entire world on edge, waiting to see how far this unpredictable country is prepared to go. (14) North Korean co-operation in the SMZ at Gaesung has ceased. (HN)

Non Scanned Bibliography referenced as NS1, 2 etc

  1. C. Ponting; Pimlico History of 20th Century p.335 [NS1]

  2. HN – Notes on Brevet History unit on the Cold War [NS2]



The surrender of Japan to the allies at the end of World War II resulted in a new and unexpected development on the Korean peninsula: the division of Korea into two separate states, one in the North (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK ) and one in the South (the Republic of Korea, ROK In the final days of the war, the United States and the Soviet Union had agreed to jointly accept the Japanese surrender in Korea, with the USSR occupying Korea north of the 38th parallel and the US occupying south until an independent and unified Korean government could be established. (17) However, by 1947, the emerging Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, combined with political differences between Koreans of the two occupation zones and the policies of the occupation forces on the ground, led to a breakdown in negotiations over a unified government of Korea. (17) On August 15, 1948, a pro-US government was established in Seoul, and three weeks later a pro-Soviet government in Pyongyang. (17) Both governments claimed to legitimately represent the entire Korean people, creating a situation of extreme tension across the 38th parallel. (17) On June 25, 1950, North Korea, backed by the USSR, invaded the South and attempted to unify the peninsula by force. (17) Under the flag of the United Nations, a US -led coalition of countries came to the assistance of South Korea. (17) The Soviet Union backed North Korea with weapons and air support, while the People’s Republic of China intervened on the side of North Korea with hundreds of thousands of combat troops. (17) In July 1953, after millions of deaths and enormous physical destruction, the war ended approximately were it began, with North and South Korea divided into roughly equal territories by the cease-fire line, a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that still forms the boundary between North and South Korea today. (17) The Two Koreas Since 1953, North and South Korea have evolved from a common cultural and historical base into two very different societies with radically dissimilar political and economic systems. (17) The differences between North and South Korea today have little to do with pre-1945 regional differences between northern and southern Korea. (17) North Korea has been heavily influenced by Soviet/Russian culture and politics as well as those of China. (17) It has developed a self-styled politics of juche (“self-reliance”) based on economic and political independence, having a highly centralized political system with a “Great Leader” at its apex (Kim Il Sung until his death in 1994, his son Kim Jong Il since then) and a command economy. (17) North Korea developed into perhaps the most isolated and controlled of all communist states, and even 10 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, showed little sign of political and economic liberalization despite severe economic hardship. (17) South Korea, on the other hand, has been greatly influenced by the United States and, in a more subtle way, by Japan. (17) The US has maintained close political, military, and economic ties with South Korea since the ROK was founded in 1948. (17) While South Korea has often been less democratic than Americans would like or the Korean leaders claimed it to be, since the fall of its military dictatorship in the late 1980s democracy appears to have become increasingly consolidated in the ROK Meanwhile, South Korea made impressive economic gains in the 1970s and 1980s and can be considered now among the world’s developed industrial countries. (17) South Korea recovered rapidly from the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and is currently the third-largest economy in Eastern Asia, after Japan and China. (17) As in many other countries, American popular culture is an important presence in South Korea. (17) To a lesser extent, Japanese popular culture is influential as well. (17) However, South Korea has developed its own distinctly Korean forms of popular culture, while traditional Korean culture has undergone something of a revival in recent decades. (17) By the late 1990s and early 2000s, South Korean pop music, film, and television dramas were becoming quite popular in other parts of Asia too, especially China and Vietnam. (17) Despite the general cultural homogeneity of Korea, regional sentiment has become an important factor in South Korean politics and in other areas of contemporary life. (17) The main regional division is between the Cholla area of the southwest and the Kyongsang area of the southeast. (17) Although some would claim that these regional differences go back to the ancient Three Kingdoms period, in fact modern South Korean regionalism is mostly a phenomenon originating in the rapid industrialization that began in the 1960s. (17) At that time, President Park Chung Hee focused on the economic development of his home region of Kyongsang, and drew much of South Korea’s leadership from there. (17) This bias toward Kyongsang continued through the succeeding presidencies of Chun Doo Hwan, Roh Tae Woo, and Kim Young Sam, who were all from the region. (17) Meanwhile, Cholla remained relatively backward and was seen as a place of dissenters, including long-time opposition figure Kim Dae Jung. (17) As a consequence, voting patterns in South Korea have shown overwhelming favoritism toward candidates from the voters’ home region. (17) After Kim Dae Jung became president in 1998, he attempted to bring more regional balance to economic and political development in South Korea, but regional identification and prejudice remain strong. (17) The division of Korea into North and South was imposed upon the Korean people by outside forces, and many if not most Koreans insist that the two Koreas must one day be reunited. (17) In the early 1970s, mid-1980s, and early 1990s, the two Koreas appeared to be reaching breakthroughs in inter-Korean relations, but each movement toward reconciliation and reunification ended in frustration. (17) Finally, in June 2000, the leaders of North and South Korea met in Pyongyang, in the North, to discuss improving North-South relations. (17) This was the first time such a summit meeting had ever taken place, and the event once again raised expectations of reconciliation and eventual reunion between the two halves of the divided peninsula. (17) However, there is still very little contact between the governments or the people of North and South Korea, and barring a dramatic turn of events, the hope for reunification appears to be a long way off. (17) The Korean Diaspora In addition to the 46 million people in South Korea and 23 million in the North, some 6 to 7 million people of Korean descent, or approximately 10 percent of the population of the two Koreas combined, live outside the Korean peninsula. (17) In proportion to the population of the home country, the Korean “diaspora” comprises one of the largest groups of emigrants from anywhere in Asia. (17) The largest communities of overseas Koreans are in China (two million), the United States (over one million), Japan (700,000), and the former Soviet Union (450,000), mostly in the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. (17) The Korean diaspora is distinctive both for its relative size and the fact that it is almost entirely a twentieth-century phenomenon, with the exception of Koreans in China and Russia, who began to immigrate there in large numbers in the 1860s. (17) There were no Koreans in US territory until after 1900, and most Koreans in Japan today are, or are descendants of, immigrants who came during the colonial occupation period of 1910-1945. (17) Koreans were first brought to Hawaii in 1903 as workers in the sugarcane fields. (17) Later, Koreans settled increasingly on the US mainland, especially in Southern California. (17) Koreans in the US still numbered only in the few tens of thousands until after 1965, when restrictions on immigration from Asia were relaxed. (17) By the 1980s, Koreans were among the most rapidly growing groups of immigrants to the United States. (17) Immigration from Korea leveled off after 1988 and began to decline in the early 1990s, but increased slightly again after the Asian financial crisis hit South Korea in 1997. (17) The main concentrations of Koreans in the US are in the Los Angeles area, New York, and Chicago. (17) At the beginning of the twenty-first century, South Korea is among the major industrialized nations of the world and is widely recognized as a success in economic development and political democratization. (17) South Korea has evolved remarkably from the poor, backward country that emerged from the shadows of Japanese colonial rule in 1945. (17) It is also a country with a strong sense of national identity and great pride in its culture, traditions, and accomplishments. (17) At the same time, Korea remains divided into North and South, with nearly two million men under arms on the peninsula and a high state of military tension. (17) As it has for more than a century, Korea occupies a strategic place on the world map, and any conflict on the peninsula would have the potential to draw in neighboring countries, if not farther. (17) Korea may no longer be a “shrimp,” but the waters it swims in are not yet entirely safe. (17)

During World War II, Koreans at home were forced to support the Japanese war effort. (18) Tens of thousands of men were conscripted into Japan’s military. (18) Around 200,000 girls and women, some from Korea, were engaged in sexual services, with the euphemism “comfort women”. (18) Previous Korean “comfort women” are still protesting against the Japanese Government for compensation of their sufferings. (18) Protestant missionary efforts in Asia were nowhere more successful than in Korea. (18) American Presbyterians and Methodists arrived in the 1880s and were well received. (18) In the days Korea was under Japanese control, Christianity became in part an expression of nationalism in opposition to the Japan’s efforts to promote the Japanese language and the Shinto religion. (18) In 1914 out of 16 million people, there were 86,000 Protestants and 79,000 Catholics; by 1934 the numbers were 168,000 and 147,000. (18) Presbyterian missionaries were especially successful. (18) Harmonizing with traditional practices became an issue. (18) The Protestants developed a substitute for Confucian ancestral rites by merging Confucian-based and Christian death and funerary rituals. (18) At the Cairo Conference on November 22, 1943, it was agreed that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent”; at a later meeting in Yalta in February 1945, it was agreed to establish a four-power trusteeship over Korea. (18) On August 9, 1945, Soviet tanks entered northern Korea from Siberia, meeting little resistance. (18) Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces on August 15, 1945. (18) The unconditional surrender of Japan, combined with fundamental shifts in global politics and ideology, led to the division of Korea into two occupation zones effectively starting on September 8, 1945, with the United States administering the southern half of the peninsula and the Soviet Union taking over the area north of the 38th parallel. (18) The Provisional Government was ignored, mainly due to American perception that it was too communist-aligned. (18) This division was meant to be temporary and was first intended to return a unified Korea back to its people after the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China could arrange a single government. (18) In December 1945, a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. (18) A 5-year trusteeship was discussed, and a joint Soviet-American commission was established. (18) The commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. (18) In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the United Nations General Assembly. (18) Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea quickly evaporated as the politics of the Cold War and opposition to the trusteeship plan from anti-communists resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems. (18) On December 12, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognised the Republic of Korea as the sole legal government of Korea. (18) In June 25, 1950 the Korean War broke out when North Korea breached the 38th parallel line to invade the South, ending any hope of a peaceful reunification for the time being. (18) After the war, the 1954 Geneva conference failed to adopt a solution for a unified Korea. (18) Beginning with Syngman Rhee, a series of oppressive autocratic governments took power in South Korea with American support and influence. (18) The country eventually transitioned to become a market-oriented democracy in 1987 largely due to popular demand for reform, and its economy rapidly grew and became a developed economy by the 2000s. (18) Due to Soviet Influence, North Korea established a communist government with a hereditary succession of leadership, with ties to China and the Soviet Union. (18) Kim Il-sung became the supreme leader until his death in 1994, after which his son, Kim Jong-il took power. (18) Kim Jong-il’s son, Kim Jong-un, is the current leader, taking power after his father’s death in 2011. (18) After the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, the North Korean economy went on a path of steep decline, and it is currently heavily reliant on international food aid and trade with China. (18)

1 North Atlantic Treaty Organization

2 ‘Relaxation’


[bibliography of sources available upon request]

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close