North Korea–South Korea relations

North Korea–South Korea relations
Map indicating locations of North Korea and South Korea

North Korea

South Korea
Diplomatic Mission
None Ministry of Unification, Seoul
Inter-Korean relations
Hangul 남북 관계
Hanja 南北關係
Revised Romanization Nambuk gwan-gye
McCune–Reischauer Nambuk kwan'gye
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (right).

North Korea–South Korea relations or DPRK-ROK relations, Inter-Korean relations are the political, commercial, diplomatic, and military interactions between Republic of Korea, abbreviated as ROK, commonly known as "South Korea", and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, abbreviated as DPRK, commonly known as "North Korea".

The relations began in 1945 with the division of Korea at the end of World War II. Since then, the DPRK and ROK have been locked in a conflict which erupted into open warfare in 1950 with the Korean War and which has continued ever since, thwarting the goal of Korean reunification.

According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, 3% of South Koreans view North Korea's influence positively, with 91% expressing a negative view, making South Korea, after Japan, the country with the most negative feelings of North Korea in the world.[1] However, a 2014 government-funded survey found 13% of South Koreans viewed North Korea as hostile, and 58% of South Koreans believed North Korea was a country they should cooperate with.[2]

According to a 2017 Korea Institute for National Unification, 58% of South Korean citizens had responded that unification is necessary. The number had declined as 62% of South Korean citizens thought unification is necessary in 2016. Among the respondents of the 2017 survey, 14% said 'we really need unification' while 44% said 'we kind of need the unification'. Regarding the survey question of 'Do we still need unification even if ROK and DPRK could peacefully coexist?', 46% agreed and 32% disagreed.[3]

In 2018, beginning with North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the relationship has seen a major diplomatic breakthrough.

Country comparison[]

Common name North Korea South Korea
Official name Democratic People's Republic of Korea Republic of Korea
Native Name 조선민주주의인민공화국
朝鮮民主主義人民共和國
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
대한민국
大韓民國
Daehan Minguk
Coat of arms Emblem of North Korea.svg Emblem of South Korea.svg
Flag North Korea South Korea
Population 25,115,311 51,446,201
Area 120,540 km2 (46,540 sq mi) 100,210 km2 (38,690 sq mi)
Population density 202/km2 (520/sq mi) 507/km2 (1,310/sq mi)
Time zones 1 (Pyongyang time) 1 (Korean Standard Time)
Capital Pyongyang Seoul
Largest city Pyongyang – 2,581,076 Seoul – 10,464,051 (25,650,063 Metro)
Government Unitary Juche one-party
totalitarian socialist republic
Unitary presidential
democratic constitutional republic
Established 9 September 1948 15 August 1948
First leader Kim Il-sung Rhee Syng-man
Current leader Kim Jong-un, WPK
Supreme Leader[4]
Kim Yong-nam, WPK
President of the Presidium[5]
Pak Pong-ju, WPK
Premier
Moon Jae-in, Democratic
President
Lee Nak-yeon, Democratic
Prime Minister
Legislature Supreme People's Assembly
Chairman: Choe Thae-bok, WPK
Vice Chairman: Kim Wan-su
Vice Chairman: Hong Son-ok
National Assembly
Speaker: Chung Sye-kyun, Independent
Vice Speaker: Shim Jae-chul, Liberty Korea
Vice Speaker: Park Ju-seon People's Party
Judiciary Supreme Court
President: Pak Myong-chol
Constitutional Court
President: Lee Jin-sung
Supreme Court
Chief Justice: Kim Myeong-soo
Official languages Korean Korean
Official script Chosŏn'gŭl Hangul

Division of Korea[]

Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang, 1946, under portraits of himself and Stalin.
Syngman Rhee and Douglas MacArthur at the ceremony inaugurating the government of the Republic of Korea.

The Korean peninsula had been occupied by Japan from 1910. On August 9, 1945, in the closing days of World War Two, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and advanced into Korea. Though the Soviet declaration of war had been agreed by the Allies at the Yalta Conference, the US government became concerned at the prospect of all of Korea falling under Soviet control. The US government therefore requested Soviet forces halt their advance at the 38th parallel north, leaving the south of the peninsula, including the capital, Seoul, to be occupied by the US. This was incorporated into General Order No. 1 to Japanese forces after the Surrender of Japan on August 15. On August 24, the Red Army entered Pyongyang and established a military government over Korea north of the parallel. American forces landed in the south on September 8 and established the United States Army Military Government in Korea.[6]

The Allies had originally envisaged a joint trusteeship which would steer Korea towards independence, but most Korean nationalists wanted independence immediately.[7] Meanwhile, the wartime co-operation between the Soviet Union and the US deteriorated as the Cold War took hold. Both occupying powers began promoting into positions of authority Koreans aligned with their side of politics and marginalizing their opponents. Many of these emerging political leaders were returning exiles with little popular support.[8][9] In North Korea, the Soviet Union supported Korean Communists. Kim Il-sung, who from 1941 had served in the Soviet Army, became the major political figure.[10] Society was centralized and collectivized, following the Soviet model.[11] Politics in the South was more tumultuous, but the strongly anti-Communist Syngman Rhee emerged as the most prominent politician.[12]

The US government took the issue to the United Nations, which led to the formation of the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK) in 1947. The Soviet Union opposed this move and refused to allow UNTCOK to operate in the North. UNTCOK organised a general election in the South, which was held on May 10, 1948.[13] The Republic of Korea was established with Syngman Rhee as President, and formally replaced the US military occupation on August 15. In North Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was declared on September 9, with Kim Il-sung, as prime minister. Soviet occupation forces left the North on December 10, 1948. US forces left the South the following year, though the US Korean Military Advisory Group remained to train the Republic of Korea Army.[14]

As a result, two antagonistic states emerged, with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems. Both opposing governments considered themselves to be the government of the whole of Korea, and both saw the division as temporary.[15][16] The DPRK proclaimed Seoul to be its official capital, a position not changed until 1972.[17]

Korean War[]

Delegates sign the Korean Armistice Agreement in P'anmunjŏm.

North Korea invaded the South on June 25, 1950, and swiftly overran most of the country. In September 1950 the United Nations force, led by the United States, intervened to defend the South, and advanced into North Korea. As they neared the border with China, Chinese forces intervened on behalf of North Korea, shifting the balance of the war again. Fighting ended on July 27, 1953, with an armistice that approximately restored the original boundaries between North and South Korea.[18] Syngman Rhee refused to sign the armistice, but reluctantly agreed to abide by it.[19] The armistice inaugurated an official ceasefire but did not lead to a peace treaty. It established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a buffer zone between the two sides, that intersected the 38th parallel but did not follow it.[19] North Korea has announced that it will no longer abide by the armistice at least six times, in the years 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2013.[20][21]

Large numbers of people were displaced as a result of the war, and many families were divided by the reconstituted border. In 2007 it was estimated that around 750,000 people remained separated from immediate family members, and family reunions have long been a diplomatic priority for the South.[22]

Cold War[]

South Korean student activist Lim Su-kyung meeting Kim Il-sung in 1989. She was jailed on her return home.

Competition between North and South Korea became key to decision-making on both sides. For example, the construction of the Pyongyang Metro spurred the construction of one in Seoul.[23] In the 1980s, the South Korean government built a 98m tall flagpole in its village of Daeseong-dong in the DMZ. In response, North Korea built a 160m tall flagpole in its nearby village of Kijŏng-dong.[24]

Tensions escalated in the late 1960s with a series of low-level armed clashes known as the Korean DMZ Conflict. During this time South Korea launched covert raids on the North.[25][26] On January 21, 1968, North Koreans commandos attacked the South Korean Blue House. On December 11, 1969, a South Korean airliner was hijacked.

During preparations for US President Nixon's visit to China in 1972, South Korean President Park Chung-hee initiated covert contact with the North's Kim Il-sung.[27] In August 1971, the first Red Cross talks between North and South Korea were held.[28] Many of the participants were really intelligence or party officials.[29] In May 1972, Lee Hu-rak, the director of the Korean CIA, secretly met with Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang. Kim apologized for the Blue House Raid, denying he had approved it.[30] In return, North Korea's deputy premier Pak Song-chol made a secret visit to Seoul.[31] On July 4, 1972, the North-South Joint Statement was issued. The statement announced the Three Principles of Reunification: first, reunification must be solved independently without interference from or reliance on foreign powers; second, reunification must be realized in a peaceful way without use of armed forces against each other; finally, reunification transcend the differences of ideologies and institutions to promote the unification of Korea as one ethnic group.[28][32] It also established the first "hotline" between the two sides.[33]

North Korea suspended talks in 1973 after the kidnapping of South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung by the Korean CIA.[27][34] Talks restarted, however, and between 1973 and 1975 there were 10 meetings of the North-South Coordinating Committee at Panmunjom.[35]

In the late 1970s, US President Jimmy Carter hoped to achieve peace in Korea. However, his plans were derailed because of the unpopularity of his proposed withdrawal of troops.[36]

In 1983, a North Korean proposal for three-way talks with the United States and South Korea coincided with the Rangoon assassination attempt against the South Korean President.[37] This contradictory behavior has never been explained.[38]

In September 1984, North Korea's Red Cross sent emergency supplies to the South after severe floods.[27] Talks resumed, resulting in the first reunion of separated families in 1985, as well as a series of cultural exchanges.[27][39] Goodwill dissipated with the staging of the US-South Korean military exercise, Team Spirit, in 1986.[40]

When Seoul was chosen to host the 1988 Summer Olympics, North Korea tried to arrange a boycott by its Communist allies or a joint hosting of the Games.[41] This failed, and the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987 was seen as North Korea's response.[42] However, at the same time, amid a global thawing of the Cold War, the newly elected South Korean President Roh Tae-woo launched a diplomatic initiative known as Nordpolitik. This proposed the interim development of a "Korean Community", which was similar to a North Korean proposal for a confederation.[43] From September 4 to 7, 1990, high-level talks were held in Seoul, at the same time that the North was protesting about the Soviet Union normalizing relations with the South. These talks led in 1991 to the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation and the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.[44][45] This coincided with the admission of both North and South Korea into the United Nations.[46] Meanwhile, on March 25, 1991, a unified Korean team first used the Korean Unification Flag at the World Table Tennis Competition in Japan, and on May 6, 1991, a unified team competed at the World Youth Football Competition in Portugal.

There were limits to the thaw in relations, however. In 1989, Lim Su-kyung, a South Korean student activist who participated in the World Youth Festival in Pyongyang, was jailed on her return.[46]

Sunshine and shadow[]

The end of the Cold War brought economic crisis to North Korea and led to expectations that reunification was imminent.[47][48] North Koreans began to flee to the South in increasing numbers. According to official statistics there were 561 defectors living in South Korea in 1995, and over 10,000 in 2007.[49] At the same time, concern over North Korea's nuclear program led in 1994 to the Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea.[50]

In 1998, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung announced a Sunshine Policy towards North Korea. Despite a naval clash in 1999, this led in June, 2000, to the first Inter-Korean summit, between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il.[51] As a result, Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[52] The summit was followed in August by a family reunion.[39] In September, the North and South Korean teams marched together at the Sydney Olympics.[53] Trade increased to the point where South Korea became North Korea's largest trading partner.[54] Starting in 1998, the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region was developed as a joint venture between the North Korean government and Hyundai.[55] In 2003, the Kaesong Industrial Region was established to allow South Korean businesses to invest in the North.[56]

US President George W Bush, however, did not support the Sunshine Policy and in 2002 branded North Korea as a member of an Axis of Evil.[57][58]

Continuing concerns about North Korea's potential to develop nuclear missiles led in 2003 to the six-party talks that included North Korea, South Korea, the USA, Russia, China, and Japan.[59] In 2006, however, North Korea resumed testing missiles and on October 9 conducted its first nuclear test.[60]

The June 15, 2000 Joint Declaration that the two leaders signed during the first South-North summit stated that they would hold the second summit at an appropriate time. It was originally envisaged that the second summit would be held in South Korea, but that did not eventuate. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun walked across the Korean Demilitarized Zone on October 2, 2007 and travelled on to Pyongyang for talks with Kim Jong-il.[61][62][63][64] The two sides reaffirmed the spirit of the June 15 Joint Declaration and had discussions on various issues related to realizing the advancement of South-North relations, peace on the Korean Peninsula, common prosperity of the people and the unification of Korea. On October 4, 2007, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il signed the peace declaration. The document called for international talks to replace the Armistice which ended the Korean War with a permanent peace treaty.[65]

During this period, the political developments were reflected in art. The films, Shiri in 1999 and Joint Security Area in 2000, gave sympathetic representations of North Koreans.[66][67]

Sunshine policy ends[]

Lee Myung-bak government[]

The Korean DMZ in 2012, viewed from the north.

The Sunshine Policy was formally abandoned by the new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in 2010.[68]

On March 26, 2010, the 1,500-ton ROKS Cheonan with a crew of 104, sank off Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. Seoul said there was an explosion at the stern, and was investigating whether a torpedo attack was the cause. Out of 104 sailors, 46 died and 58 were rescued. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting of security officials and ordered the military to focus on rescuing the sailors.[69][70] On May 20, 2010, a team of international researchers published results claiming that the sinking had been caused by a North Korean torpedo; North Korea rejected the findings.[71] South Korea agreed with the findings from the research group and President Lee Myung-bak declared afterwards that Seoul would cut all trade with North Korea as part of measures primarily aimed at striking back at North Korea diplomatically and financially.[72] North Korea denied all such allegations and responded by severing ties between the countries and announced it abrogated the previous non-aggression agreement.[73]

On November 23 2010, North Korea's artillery fired at South Korea's Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea and South Korea returned fire. Two South Korean marines and two civilians were killed, more than a dozen were wounded, including three civilians. About 10 North Koreans were believed to be killed; however the North Korean government denies this. The town was evacuated and South Korea warned of stern retaliation, with President Lee Myung-bak ordering the destruction of a nearby North Korea missile base if further provocation should occur.[74] The official North Korean news agency, KCNA, stated that North Korea only fired after the South had "recklessly fired into our sea area".[75]

In 2011 it was revealed that North Korea abducted four high-ranking South Korean military officers in 1999.[76]

Park Geun-hye government[]

On December 12, 2012, North Korea launched the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2, a scientific and technological satellite, and it reached orbit.[77][78][79] In response, the United States reployed its warships in the region.[80] January–September 2013 saw an escalation of tensions between North Korea and South Korea, the United States, and Japan that began because of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2087, which condemned North Korea for the launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2. The crisis was marked by extreme escalation of rhetoric by the new North Korean administration under Kim Jong-un and actions suggesting imminent nuclear attacks against South Korea, Japan, and the United States.[81]

On March 24, 2014, a crashed North Korean drone was found near Paju, the onboard cameras contained pictures of the Blue House and military installations near the DMZ. On March 31, following an exchange of artillery fire into the waters of the NLL, a North Korean drone was found crashed on Baengnyeongdo.[82][83] On September 15, wreckage of a suspected North Korean drone was found by a fisherman in the waters near Baengnyeongdo, the drone was reported to be similar to one of the North Korean drones which had crashed in March 2014.[84]

On January 1, 2015, Kim Jong-un, in his New Year's address to the country, stated that he was willing to resume higher-level talks with the South.[85]

In the first week of August 2015, a mine went off at the DMZ, wounding two South Korean soldiers. The South Korean government accused the North of planting the mine, which the North denied. After that South Korea restarted propaganda broadcasts to the North.[86]

On August 20, 2015, North Korea fired a shell on the city of Yeoncheon. South Korea launched several artillery rounds in response. There were no casualties in the South, but some local residents evacuated.[87] The shelling caused both countries to adopt pre-war statuses and a talk that was held by high level officials in the Panmunjeom to relieve tensions on August 22, 2015, and the talks carried over to the next day.[88] Nonetheless while talks were going on, North Korea deployed over 70 percent of their submarines, which increased the tension once more on August 23, 2015.[89] Talks continued into the next day and finally concluded on August 25 when both parties reached an agreement and military tensions were eased.

Despite peace talks between South Korea and North Korea on September 9, 2016 regarding the North's missile test, North Korea continued to progress with its missile testing. North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test as part of the state's 68th anniversary since its founding.[90] In response South Korea revealed that it had a a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un.[91]

Thaw at the Winter Games[]

Kim Jong-un meeting with South Korean envoys at the Workers' Party of Korea main building, 6 March 2018

In May 2017 Moon Jae-in was elected President of South Korea with a promise to return to the Sunshine Policy.[92] In his New Year address for 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proposed sending a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.[93] The Seoul–Pyongyang hotline was reopened after almost two years.[94] North and South Korea marched together in the Olympics opening ceremony and fielded a united women's ice hockey team.[95] As well as the athletes, North Korea sent an unprecedented high-level delegation, headed by Kim Yo-jong, sister of Kim Jong-un, and President Kim Yong-nam, and including performers like the Samjiyon Orchestra.[96] The delegation passed on an invitation to President Moon to visit North Korea.[96] Following the Olympics, authorities of the two countries raised the possibility that they could host the 2021 Asian Winter Games together.[97] Some political analysts expressed scepticism with Kim Jong-un's peace overture.[98]

In March, a South Korean delegation met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and then traveled to Washington to pass on an invitation to President Donald Trump to have a meeting with Kim.[99] On 1 April, South Korean K-pop stars performed a concert in Pyongyang entitled "Spring is Coming", which was attended by Kim Jong-un and his wife.[100] Meanwhile, propaganda broadcasts appear to have stopped on both sides.[101]

See also[]

References[]

  1. ^ 2014 World Service Poll Archived 2015-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. BBC
  2. ^ Zachary Keck (30 May 2014). "South Koreans View North Korea as Cooperative Partner". The Diplomat. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  3. ^ https://www.kinu.or.kr/main/kinu
  4. ^ Kim Jong-un holds four concurrent positions: Chairman of the Workers' Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission and Supreme Commander of the People's Army, serving as the "supreme leader" of the DPRK.</ref>
  5. ^ Kim Yong-nam is the "head of state for foreign affairs". The position of president (formerly head of state) was written out of the constitution in 1998. Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, was given the appellation "Eternal President" in its preamble.</ref>
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