n’0N mm Ninn ‘ynlp?± -1″-1 – no-ninni n’n-uonn nN’-up nrbln nn Irun noono onyx n’Nn 201415080 3. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Korea had been a part of the Japanese empire. However, following Japan’s crushing WWII defeat and subsequent surrender in September 1945, the balance of power quickly shifted and the Ally forces were left to make decisions about postwar Asia. In a series of conferences, it was decided to divide up the Korean peninsula along the 38th parallel, with U. S. military forces occupying the southern half and Soviet military forces occupying the northern half.
By the end of the decade, two new states with different ideologies had formed on the previously unified peninsula. In the south, the anti-communist dictator Syngman Rhee was backed by the support of the American government and the United Nations, while in the north, the communist dictator Kim II Sung enjoyed the support of the Soviets and the new People’s Republic of China. The 38th parallel was far from peaceful, as neither Korean dictator was content to remain on his respective side, leading to common border conflicts. The war was officially triggered in 1950 when North Korea invaded the South.
It was a pre-planned move initiated by Kim II Sung, who convinced the USSR’s Stalin and China’s Mao that it was the right time for a forceful Korean reunification under communism. However, while on the surface the Korean War seemed to be a war for control of the peninsula between the North and South, it essentially served more as the first armed confrontation of the Cold War between the USA and the USSR. The two previously allied superpowers recognized each other as competition for world dominationl . The United States was worried about the rapid spread of Communism as its growth threatened capitalism and the
American way of life. Truman believed that if one country fell to Communism, then Korea fell to the influence of communism, the next “domino” would be Japan, which was very important for American trade and military cooperation2. The USSR, on the other hand, wanted to see communism continue to expand but were wary of getting involved in a full-scale battle with the United States. Direct confrontation was avoided as both powers had nuclear weaponry, and lessons from Japan led to great cautiousness and trepidation towards this technology3. By using the newly divided
Korean peninsula as a proxy, the two powers were able to combat each other without actually having to going into another “hot” war. Three bloody years later, an armistice was agreed to, bringing the Korean War to an end. The ceasefire essentially preserved the 38th parallel boundary, adding only another 1 ,500 square miles of territory to South Korea, and creating a 2-mile-wide “demilitarized zone” that still exists today4. The Korean War led South Korea to gain new unlikely allies in wake of the North Korean threat5. Among them was Japan, who also felt threatened by their new unstable North Korean neighbors.
Japan, becoming increasingly pacifist following many military battles in the 20th century, sought ways to protect themselves and Joined the already established US-South Korean alliance6. Following the war, South Korea and the United States maintained overall strong ties, while the North and South became increasingly dissimilated in ideology and culture. The Korean War consolidated the United States as an ally to South Korea and throughout its rehabilitation process South Korea was often dependent on and influenced by the superpower, adopting capitalism as the countrys main ideology. Following the armistice, South Korea and the U.
S. agreed to a “Mutual Defense Treaty,” under which an attack on either party in the Pacific area would summon a response from both. In 1967, South Korea obliged to the military alliance. At the request of the United States, South Korean President Park Chung-Hee sent troops to Vietnam to assist Americans during the Vietnam War7. In exchange, the United States increased military and economic assistance to South Korea. Still, despite the alliance, the South Koreans encountered on a number of occasions the US’ tendency to fght cautiously, ulling out of conflicts when they would escalate into bigger threats.
Therefore, there always remained an air of doubt in South Koreans’ mind regarding the true extent of the US’ loyalty to them8. This behavior was demonstrated during President Truman’s dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur was a popular hero of World War II and later during the Korean War he was designated commander of the United Nations forces defending South Korea. He was hailed a military genius after he executed an invasion which led to the recapture of the South Korean capital of Seoul.
However, when he followed up his victory with a full-scale invasion of North Korea on Truman’s orders, China intervened in the war and inflicted a series of defeats, compelling him to withdraw from North Korea. By April 1951, the military situation had become more stable, but MacArthur’s public statements against China increasingly worried Truman, who feared MacArthur’s provocations could lead to a direct war with China. MacArthur as a result was relieved of his commands, a decision that shocked many Americans and South Koreans alike.
South Koreans felt protected by MacArthur’s powerful military stance against their enemies, and ouldn’t understand why Truman would let such an authoritative and successful nature, with the aim being to reunify the peninsula and eliminate any traces of the communist regime. The South Koreans often felt that the Americans were not militant enough in their policy towards the North Korean threat. As a result, over the next few decades South Korea attempted to become more independent and experienced tremendous economic, political and military growth, significantly reducing its dependency on the U.
S. , including in trade. Despite these disagreements however, the two nations remain strong partners even today, with South Koreans anking as having one of the most positive views in the world towards the United States and Americans in polls9. While the Korean War united between South Korea, Japan and the United States, it did the opposite in South-North Korean relations. Almost no changes were made to the physical territorial boundaries, but the foreign influences on the two countries sent them on opposite ideological paths which only intensified in time.
The war aimed to unite, but instead, it separated. The following decades saw multiple attempts made by both North and South Korea towards warmer relations (discussed in depth in the next essay). However, these attempts quickly failed as their visions of the unified Korea were radically contradicting. South Korean policy focused around westernization, a democratic system and capitalism, while North Korea became increasingly conservative, religious and radical in the worship of its leaders and aimed to communize the entire peninsula.
Furthermore, both Koreas could not easily overcome the mistrust and animosity that had built up over the past decades. As of today, South Korea still fantasizes of conquering the North or otherwise maintaining a status-quo and preventing a North Korean conquest10. North Korea’s strong military, constant nuclear weapon threat and general instability has led South Korea to build up a strong and powerful army in defense. Armed with diverse weaponry and protected by US troops stationed at all times in South Korea, South Korea is ready to fght the North at a moment’s notice should it ever need toll.
The Korean War essentially tore apart a united people, with the result being the evolution of two distinct groups with polar-opposite views. 4. The division of Korea into South Korea and North Korea originated in the 1945 World War II triumph of the Allies, which ended Japan’s 35-year colonial rule of Korea. Following their victory, it fell to the Americans and the Soviets to decide what should be done with their enemy’s imperial possessions. They agreed to occupy the country temporarily in a trusteeship with the zone of control defined along the 38th parallel with U.
S. military forces occupying the southern half and the communist Soviet military forces occupying the northern half. The purpose of this trusteeship was reportedly to establish a Korean provisional government which would become “free and independent in due course. ” Though elections were scheduled, disagreements soon broke out. In 1948, the Soviet Union refused to partake in the United Nations supervised nationwide democratic elections for a new government, leading to a cession of the I-IN??”USSR cooperation.
As consequence, the UN went on to recognize only the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as the sole legitimate government in Korea. Two years later, the Korean War (1950-1953), which aimed to unify the land among other objectives, ended instead in an Armistice agreement which left the two Koreas result, a Communist state which saw rapid industrial growth in the 1960s was established in the north under Soviet backings, who presided over a state-controlled conomy dependent upon massive aid from Russia and China.
South Korea, meanwhile, developed into a pro-Western state and one of the world’s leading economies, employing free-enterprise economic policies as well as adopting a democratic government. The two superpowers backed different leaders, the Northern leader being the communist associate Kim II Sung and the Southern leader being the strongman and anti-communist Syngman Rhee. After these two states were effectively established, each claimed sovereignty over the whole Korean territory and hoped to unify the peninsula under their own rule and ideology.
This goal of peacefully reuniting the Koreas under a single government is still a hope for both sides even today. However, this process has always been met with many obstacles due to continuous tension between the two countries, which have become vastly different over six decades of separation. In the 1970s and 80s, there were multiple attempts made by both North and South Korea towards warmer relations. The two Koreas announced the North-South Joint Communiqu?© on July 4, 1972 and subsequently held inter-Korean dialogue aimed at achieving their common goal of unifying the peninsula.
However, these attempts quickly failed as their visions of the unified Korea were radically contradicting. South Korean policy focused around a democratic system and capitalism, while North Korea became increasingly religious and radical in the worship of its leaders and aimed to communize the entire peninsula. Furthermore, both Koreas could not easily overcome the mistrust and animosity that had built up over the past decades. In addition, increased acts of terror made the tension only grow.
For example, on November 29, 1987, a bomb planted by Northern agents, intended by Kim II Sung and Kim Jong II to prevent the ccurrence of the Olympics in Seoul that year, exploded on a South Korean airliner killing all 115 people on board. Kim Hyun-Hui, the main perpetrator of the act who later severed all ties with North Korea, explained the brainwashing she endured: “Kim II-sung was a god-like fgure. Anything that was ordered by him could be justified. Any order would be carried out with extreme loyalty. You were ready to sacrifice your lifel 2. Though the relations between the two Koreas were as tense as ever, in the early 1990s, hopes for reconciliation grew again as both South and North Korea Joined the United Nations. The mood of reconciliation, however, soon came to an end when North Korea provoked the first nuclear crisis by announcing withdrawal from the Nuclear Weapon Non-proliferation Treaty in 1993. Although the announcement was revoked by North Korea soon afterwards, it was a sign that North Korea was playing by its own rules and soon-after hopes for unification completely crumbled to dust by the sudden death of Kim II-sung.
As is usually the case after the death of an influential leader, the successor, in this case Kim Jong-Il, understood that much was expected of him and that he had very big shoes to fill. Therefore, instead of cooperating with Western forces, he declared himself the defender of Korean peace and Justicel 3, and strengthened the combat power of the Korean People’s Army in every way against potential western threats through his inspection of numerous army units. Relations between the Koreas rapidly deteriorated after these between the North and South quickly grew.
While the South opened up to the West, the North closed up to their influence. Harsh, corrupt, conservative and unyielding rule in North Korea combined with a series of natural disasters in the mid-1990s led o widespread famine, economic collapse, and a regression of modernization. Meanwhile, South Korea blossomed and developed, supported by Western powers and open to changes. Despite the many crises of the previous decade, the new millennium brought with it an era with renewed hopes for integration that were overseen in the south by liberal governments who were more amicable towards the north than previous governments had been.
In 2000, there were Joint signs of openness from both sides when a summit in Pyongyang between Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung led to economic cooperation and the reunion f thousands of relatives separated since the Korean War by the 38th parallel. Border liaison offices were reopened, and thousands of North Korean prisoners were granted amnesty in South Korea. Furthermore, both countries were involved in military discussions in Pyongyang and Seoul.
The high in the two countries’ relationships continued to grow in 2001, when a high-level European diplomatic mission headed by Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson traveled for the first time to North Korea to attempt to broker reconciliation with South Korea. This was a significant turning point for the two countrys relations since by the 2000s North Korea was basically already a hermit country, completely closed off from the rest of the world. These improvements, while not completely conflict free, were undoubtedly a change in the right direction.
In 2007, passenger trains crossed the North-South border for the first time in 56 years, and the leaders of the two Koreas, the North’s Kim Jong II and the South’s Roh Moo-Hyun, met in the first Joint-Korean-leader-talks in 15 years. The discussions were on a myriad of issues related to the advancement of South-North relations, peace on the Korean Peninsula, common prosperity of the Korean people, and the overall reunification of Korea. On 4 October 2007, the two leaders signed a peace declaration which aimed for the international talks to act as a permanent peace treaty in replacement of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
However, these steps in the right direction continued to be hindered by one looming threat which constantly hovered in the air??”the issue of North Korean instability and continued development of their nuclear weaponry. Back in 2003, North Korea became the first state ever to withdraw from the Nuclear Proliferation treaty and two ears later publicly announced that it possessed nuclear weaponry. In 2006, the North Korean foreign minister declared that his country was planning to conduct a nuclear test “in the future14”. Sure enough, the United States Geological Survey detected a magnitude 4. seismic event coming from North Korea which indicated a nuclear testl 5. The increased threats of North Korea’s nuclear weaponry led to a large reversal of direction in the South-North Korean relationship, especially under the new conservative South Korean president Lee Myung-bak (elected in 2008) who penly opposed the North’s actions. Over the next three years from 2008-2010, the relationship again saw a few ups and downs, with North Korea frequently provoking the South and both sides claiming the other responsible for the peace talks failures.
As of recently, the hopes for reunification have again reached a new low, with North already earlier rejected, as an ultimatum for relations to improve. Among these pre- requisites for peace, the North demanded of the South to apologize for failing to show proper respect towards Kim Jong-il during the mourning period that followed his death in 201116. In conclusion, as the situation stands today, the hope for reunification is still a distant hope for many Koreans in the North and South alike. However, due to the many ups and downs over the decades, this goal has somewhat morphed.
Due to the increasingly unstable and radical ideology of North Korea, many South Koreans today, especially the younger generations, no longer see it probable to peacefully integrate the two countries under one democratic governmentl 7. Furthermore, they fear the huge economic burden which will fall on South Korea should the two countries integrate today. Instead, the nature of unification has hanged to allowing the North to collapse on itself and later integrate the fallen country into the South18.
This is a topic of intense political debate among many South Koreans and foreign parties such as China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. The old goal of cooperative and peaceful integration has faded over the years due to numerous factors which have hindered the progression. These factors include changing leadership in both countries, increased dissimilation of both countries’ core ideology, and a huge physical social gap between the North and South which will be very difficult to overcome should Korea ever unify.