Division of Korea

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The Korean Peninsula first divided along the 38th parallel, later along the demarcation line.
Detail of the DMZ

The division of Korea into South Korea and North Korea was the result of the 1945 Allied victory in World War II, ending the Empire of Japan's 35-year colonial rule of Korea by General Order No. 1. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily occupy the country with the zone of control along the 38th parallel.

With the onset of the Cold War, negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union failed to lead to an independent, unified Korea. In 1948, UN-supervised elections were held in the US-occupied south only. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Korea in South Korea, which was promptly followed by the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in North Korea. The United States supported the South, and the Soviet Union supported the North, and each government claimed sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula.

The Korean War (1950–53) left the two Koreas separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone through the Cold War and beyond. The twenty-first century saw some improved relations between the two sides, overseen in the South by liberal governments, who were more amicable towards the North than previous governments had been.[1] These changes were largely reversed under conservative South Korean president Lee Myung-bak who opposed the North's continued development of nuclear weapons.

Historical background

Korea under Japanese rule (1910–1945)

As the Russo-Japanese War ended in 1905, Korea became a nominal protectorate, and was annexed in 1910 by Japan, and the Korean king Gojong was removed. In the following decades, nationalist and radical groups emerged, mostly in exile, to struggle for independence. Divergent in their outlooks and approaches, these groups failed to unite in one national movement.[2][3] The Korean Provisional Government in China failed to obtain widespread recognition.[4]

End of World War II

In November 1943, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Chiang Kai-shek met at the Cairo Conference to discuss what should happen to Japan's colonies, and agreed that Japan should lose all the territories it had conquered by force. In the declaration after this conference, Korea was mentioned for the first time. The three powers declared that they were, "mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, ... determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.”[5][6]

For Korean nationalists who wanted immediate independence, the phrase "in due course" was cause for dismay.[citation needed]

Regional movement of Soviet forces in 1945.

At the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Soviet Union promised to join its allies in the Pacific War within three months of victory in Europe. On August 8, 1945, after three months to the day, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan.[7] Soviet troops advanced rapidly, and the US government became anxious that they would occupy the whole of Korea. On August 10, 1945 two young officers – Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel – were assigned to define an American occupation zone. Working on extremely short notice and completely unprepared, they used a National Geographic map to decide on the 38th parallel. They chose it because it divided the country approximately in half but would place the capital Seoul under American control. No experts on Korea were consulted. The two men were unaware that forty years before, Japan and Russia had discussed sharing Korea along the same parallel. Rusk later said that had he known, he "almost surely" would have chosen a different line.[8][9] The division placed sixteen million Koreans in the American zone and nine million in the Soviet zone.[10] To the surprise of the Americans, the Soviet Union immediately accepted the division. The agreement was incorporated into General Order No. 1 (approved on 17 August 1945) for the surrender of Japan.[11]

Soviet forces began amphibious landings in Korea by August 14 and rapidly took over the north-east of the country, and on August 16 they landed at Wonsan.[12] On August 24, the Red Army reached Pyongyang.[13]

General Abe Nobuyuki, the last Japanese Governor-General of Korea, had established contact with a number of influential Koreans since the beginning of August 1945 to prepare the hand-over of power. Throughout August, Koreans organized people's committee branches for the "Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence" (CPKI, 조선건국준비위원회), headed by Lyuh Woon-hyung, a moderate left-wing politician. On September 6, 1945, a congress of representatives was convened in Seoul and founded the short-lived People's Republic of Korea.[14][15]

Post-World War II

Soviet-American negotiations

South Korean citizens protest allied trusteeship in December 1945.

In December 1945, at the Moscow Conference, the Allies agreed that the Soviet Union, the US, the Republic of China, and Britain would take part in a trusteeship over Korea for up to five years in the lead-up to independence. Most Koreans demanded independence immediately, with the exception of the Communists, who supported the trusteeship under pressure from the Soviet government.[16][17] The US President Franklin Roosevelt had initiated the idea of the trusteeship for Korea in 1943.[18]

A Soviet-US Joint Commission met in 1946 and 1947 to work towards a unified administration, but failed to make progress due to increasing Cold War antagonism and to Korean opposition to the trusteeship.[19] Meanwhile, the division between the two zones deepened. The difference in policy between the occupying powers led to a polarization of politics, and a transfer of population between North and South.[20] In May 1946 it was made illegal to cross the 38th parallel without a permit.[21]

South Korea

Lyuh Woon-hyung giving a speech in the Committee for Preparation of Korean Independence in Seoul on August 16, 1945.

With the American government fearing Soviet expansion, and the Japanese authorities in Korea warning of a power vacuum, the embarkation date of the US occupation force was brought forward three times.[22]

On September 7, 1945, General MacArthur announced that Lieutenant General John R. Hodge was to administer Korean affairs, and Hodge landed in Incheon with his troops the next day. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, which had operated from China, sent a delegation with three interpreters to Hodge, but he refused to meet with them.[23] Likewise, Hodge refused to recognize the newly formed People's Republic of Korea and its People's Committees, and outlawed it on 12 December.[24]

In September 1946, thousands of laborers and peasants rose up against the military government. This uprising was quickly defeated, and failed to prevent scheduled October elections for the South Korean Interim Legislative Assembly.

The ardent anti-communist Syngman Rhee, who had been the first president of the Provisional Government and later worked as a pro-Korean lobbyist in the US, became the most prominent politician in the South. On July 19, 1947, Lyuh Woon-hyung, the last politician committed to left-right dialogue, was assassinated.[25]

The government conducted a number of military campaigns against left-wing insurgents. Over the course of the next few years, between 30,000[26] and 100,000 people lost their lives.[27]

North Korea

Welcome Celebration for Red Army in Pyongyang on 14 October 1945.

When Soviet troops entered Pyongyang, they found a local branch of the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence operating under the leadership of veteran nationalist Cho Man-sik.[28] The Soviet Army allowed these "People's Committees" to function since they were friendly to the Soviet Union. Colonel-General Terentii Shtykov set up the Soviet Civil Administration, taking control of the committees and placing Communists in key positions.

In February 1946 a provisional government called the Provisional People's Committee was formed under Kim Il-sung, who had spent the last years of the war training with Soviet troops in Manchuria. Conflicts and power struggles ensued at the top levels of government in Pyongyang as different aspirants maneuvered to gain positions of power in the new government. In March 1946 the provisional government instituted a sweeping land-reform program: land belonging to Japanese and collaborator landowners was divided and redistributed to poor farmers.[29] Organizing the many poor civilians and agricultural laborers under the people's committees, a nationwide mass campaign broke the control of the old landed classes. Landlords were allowed to keep only the same amount of land as poor civilians who had once rented their land, thereby making for a far more equal distribution of land. The North Korean land reform was achieved in a less violent way than in China or in Vietnam. Official American sources[which?] stated: "From all accounts, the former village leaders were eliminated as a political force without resort to bloodshed, but extreme care was taken to preclude their return to power."[30] The farmers responded positively; many collaborators and former landowners fled to the south, where some of them obtained positions in the new South Korean government. According to the U.S. military government, 400,000 northern Koreans went south as refugees.[31]

Key industries were nationalized. The economic situation was nearly as difficult in the north as it was in the south, as the Japanese had concentrated agriculture in the south and heavy industry in the north.

Soviet forces departed in 1948.[32]

Elections and UN intervention

South Korean demonstration in support of the U.S.-Soviet Joint Commission in 1946.
South Korean general election on May 10, 1948.

With the failure of the Joint Commission to make progress, the US brought the problem before the United Nations in September 1947. The Soviet Union opposed UN involvement. The UN passed a resolution on November 14, 1947, declaring that free elections should be held, foreign troops should be withdrawn, and a UN commission for Korea, the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea, should be created. The Soviet Union boycotted the voting and did not consider the resolution to be binding, arguing that the UN could not guarantee fair elections. In the absence of Soviet co-operation, it was decided to hold UN-supervised elections in the south only.[33][34] Some UNTCOK delegates felt that the conditions in the south gave unfair advantage to right-wing candidates, but they were overruled.[35]

The decision to proceed with separate elections was unpopular among many Koreans, who rightly saw it as a prelude to a permanent division of the country. General strikes in protest against the decision began in February 1948.[36] In April, Jeju islanders rose up against the looming division of the country. South Korean troops were sent to repress the rebellion. Tens of thousands of islanders were killed and by one estimate, 70% of the villages were burned by the South Korean troops.[37] The uprising flared up again with the outbreak of the Korean War.[38]

In April 1948, a conference of organizations from the north and the south met in Pyongyang, but conference produced no results. The southern politicians Kim Koo and Kim Kyu-sik attended the conference and boycotted the elections in the south, and did many other politicians and parties.[39][40] Kim Koo was assassinated the following year, apparently by Rhee.[41]

On May 10, 1948 the south held a general election. On August 15, the "Republic of Korea" formally took over power from the U.S. military, with Syngman Rhee as the first president. In the North, the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" was declared on September 9, with Kim Il-sung as prime minister.

On December 12, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly accepted the report of UNTCOK and declared the Republic of Korea to be the "only lawful government in Korea".[42]

Unrest continued in the South. In October 1948, the Yeosu–Suncheon Rebellion took place, in which some regiments rejected the suppression of the Jeju uprising and rebelled against the government.[43] In 1949, the Syngman Rhee government established the Bodo League in order to keep an eye on its political opponents. The majority of the Bodo League's members were innocent farmers and civilians who were forced into membership.[44] The registered members or their families were executed at the beginning of the Korean War. On December 24, 1949, South Korean Army massacred Mungyeong citizens who were suspected communist sympathizers or their family and affixed blame to communists.[45]

Korean War

This division of Korea, after more than a millennium of being unified, was seen as controversial and temporary by both regimes. From 1948 until the start of the civil war on June 25, 1950, the armed forces of each side engaged in a series of bloody conflicts along the border. In 1950, these conflicts escalated dramatically when North Korean forces invaded South Korea, triggering the Korean War. The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed three years later ending hostilities and effectively making the division permanent. The two sides agreed to create a four-kilometer-wide buffer zone between the states, known as the Demilitarized Zone.

Geneva Conference and NNSC

As dictated by the terms of the Korean Armistice, a Geneva Conference was held in 1954 on the Korean question. Despite efforts by many of the nations involved, the conference ended without a declaration for a unified Korea.

The Armistice established a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) which was tasked to monitor the Armistice. Since 1953, members of the Swiss[46] and Swedish[47] Armed Forces have been members of the NNSC stationed near the DMZ.

Post-armistice inter-Korean relations

Although the truce seemingly ended the war between North and South Korea, it is often regarded as a truce in name only. This proved to be especially true after the attack of ROKS Cheonan sinking, the world has their eyes on North Korea's next move, and two Koreas' tension has flared[by whom?] since then. The incident chilled inter-Korean relations and seemed to freeze all exchanges between the two Koreas. As soon as the investigation team revealed that the Cheonan was sunk by North Korea, President Lee implemented countermeasures called the May 24 Measures. The South Korean government suspended all inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation with the North, except for business operations in the Kaeseong Industrial Complex and the pure humanitarian aid for the underprivileged people in North Korea.

The Korean peninsula, in the end, became a continuous battlefield without an official declaration of peace. With the South Korean conscription act and North Korea maintaining the largest standing army, it is very obvious that the threat of war remains in the air between North and South Korean politics. With the armistice, there was no official statement of which political ideology was right. As a result, both countries were determined to keep their ideology going strong. For example, the North Koreans saw themselves as the "true" Koreans and would refuse unification unless a Communist regime was accepted [48]

There is a great deal of skepticism[citation needed] towards North-South Korea relations. Economically, it is commonly alleged[by whom?] that the South provides a great deal of support to the North whilst receiving nothing in return.[citation needed] However, compared to the previous South Korean government or the former West German aid to East Germany, the Kim Dae Jung administration's assistance to North Korea has been rather minuscule. The aid to North Korea in the year 2000 was only .017 percent of South Korea's GDP, less than one-fourth of the former West Germany's annual aid to East Germany.[49] While it may seem low, it must be remembered that during the year 2000, much of the South Korean government had considered the Sunshine Policy as dead. Beginning in 1998, the South Korean president Kim Dae-jung has made efforts to reunify the Korean peninsula by creating the Sunshine Policy. This policy was meant to ease tensions between South Korea and North Korea after so many years after the Korean War. It initially was meant so that instead of treating North Korea like a caged animal, South Korea and North Korea would work together and discuss any issues within the peninsula [50] However, the South Korean government has recently stated that the nuclear arms program in North Korea has killed the Sunshine Policy.[51] As such, the South Korean government no longer desires cooperation with North Korea since North Korea refused to meet all its demands.

On July 7, 1988, with the announcement of the Presidential Declaration for National Self-esteem Unification and Prosperity, South and North Korea officially promoted inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. These exchanges halted temporarily when North Korea withdrew from the NPT in March 1993, but it eventually resumed its course and remains in effect to the present day. Up until 1989, only one person crossed the border but that number has increased over the years and now stands at 130,000. Inter-Korean trade recorded 19 million US dollars in 1989 but it reached 1.9 billion US dollars in 2010. Additionally, the total amount of humanitarian aid from 1995 to late 2010 equals approximately 2.9 billion US dollars.

The foreign relations that define the place of North and South Korea in the world community today are product of the trajectories.[clarification needed] Starting with 1945 nation building process of South Korea led by US, South has been allied with United States whereas North Korea has allied with China and Russia.[citation needed] However, with the increasing prosperity of China and its power in the international society, North Korea has limited power in China.[52]

See also


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  3. Cumings, Bruce (2005). Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 156–160. ISBN 0-393-32702-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Cumings, Bruce (2005). Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 159–160. ISBN 0-393-32702-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  • Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas : A Contemporary History. Addison-Wesley, 1997, 472 pages, ISBN 0-201-40927-5
  • Cumings, Bruce. The Origins of the Korean War: Liberation and the Emergence of Separate Regimes, 1945-1947. Princeton University Press, 1981, 607 pages, ISBN 0-691-09383-0
  • Hoare, James; Daniels, Gordon (February 2004). "The Korean Armistice North and South: The Low-Key Victory [Hoare]; The British Press and the Korean Armistice: Antecedents, Opinions and Prognostications [Daniels]". The Korean Armistice of 1953 and its Consequences: Part I (PDF) (Discussion Paper No. IS/04/467 ed.). London: The Suntory Centre (London School of Economics).CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

ja:連合軍軍政期 (朝鮮史)