Relations between North and South Korea have been rather tense for some time, which might be an understatement. Last year we saw North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un walking over the border to shake hands with South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-In. Well even though the third summit was proposed between the two leaders, right now the North isn’t exactly in the USA’s good books. South Korea’s big brother certainly watches over this relationship like a brooding mother. Let’s discuss how this division started.
The Korean War- June 1950 to July 1953
(Leading to death of more than 3 million people)
At the end of World War ll in 1945, Korea was freed from Japanese control. North Korea was occupied by the Soviets while the South was occupied by American forces. By 1948, the country was divided in half at the 38th Parallel with the capitalist South ruled by Syngman Rhee and communist North by Kim-il Sung. The Soviet troops withdrew from Korea in 1948 and the U.S. troops withdrew in 1949. However, North and South Korea as enemies of one another would not accept a border between them as permanent.
Initiated by North Koreans, South Korea was attacked on June 25th, 1950, advancing across the 38th Parallel. Around 75,000 troops of the North Korea People’s Army defeated the Republic of Korea’s Army with success. They captured the capital city of Seoul and then occupied the whole of South Korea except for Pusan (now officially called the Busan Metropolitan City). This was a problem for President Truman and the United States as it wanted to contain the spread of communism by preventing the domino effect. (Domino effect: That is, if Korea fell, so would other countries to the ideology)
South Korea appealed for support, and the United States pushed a resolution through the United Nations Security Council. But to the surprise of North Korea USSR did not use the veto power as it was boycotting the council because the new communist China was not accepted. Later, approval was granted for the UN army made of International forces of 16 nations to send help to South Korea, commanded by General MacArthur. On September 15th, the U.S. Marine X corps launched an amphibious assault at Inchon leading to the North Korean troops to retreat over the 38th Parallel, and soon Seoul was recaptured along with the whole of South Korea by the end of the month.
Now, MacArthur was to go beyond the initial idea of containment. President Truman (US), worried about a Chinese response, nevertheless approved and UN troops moved into North Korea on October 7th, 1950. They captured Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and then the Yale River, which was the border with communist China. China retaliated by helping the North Koreans sending 250,000 Chinese troops. The UN troops, overwhelmed by this new force, were pushed out of North Korea with heavy losses. By January 1951, Chinese and North Korean troops had captured Seoul. In June 1951, more UN troops were sent to Korea, eventually driving the North Korean to the 38th Parallel and stabilizing the front.
Then was a situation when a stalemate was set in. In July peace talks began, but a compromise could not be found. Finally, General Dwight D. Eisenhower took over as the president in early 1953 and sought an end to the war. After two years of negotiations, an armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, at Panmunjom, on the 38th Parallel. A demilitarized zone was set up, which prevents people from reuniting or escaping, stands to this day, forming the communist North with its worker’s party while the South espoused capitalism, individual freedom, and American values.
Over a decade now, North Korea has proactively inclined towards nuclear activities leading to threatening peace and stability. A solution must be created to suspend the near horrendous crisis. Tensions increased in 2017 when North Korea conducted a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach all over to the US. In 2018, Trump suspended major joint US-South Korea military exercises and completed a meeting of sitting US president and a North Korean leader. However large gaps persist between the two positions as no negotiated agreement was signed as late as in the second summit in Hanoi, February 2019.
Nuclear diplomacy among North Korea & South Korea has opened prospects for North Korean to attract global investments. South Korea is also leading towards future economic induced through trade with the North. This means that North Korea would attract a diverse range of investors if it is able to normalize relations and get to remove sanctions. China has also overshadowed its dependence over North Korea in time; indicated by the course of increased imports and exports within these countries. This has been enveloped at a time where the world’s two largest economies have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of one another’s goods i.e. the US and China. Now the question remains that with the South backed by the US, will the uninterrupted brawl of the two Koreas continue asserting with the advent of the US-China trade war? The answer that only time can tell.