North Korea–South Korea relations (Hangul: 남북 관계; Hanja: 南北關係; RR: Nambuk gwan-gye; MR: Nambuk kwan'gye) are the political, commercial, diplomatic, and military interactions between North Korea and South Korea. These interactions extend from the division of Korea in 1945 following World War II to today. The 1950–1953 Korean War and the subsequent Korean conflict are major factors impacting the efforts to achieve peace and 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. However, a 2014 government-funded survey found only 13% of South Koreans viewed North Korea as hostile, and 58% of South Koreans believed North Korea was a country they should cooperate with.
According to a 2017 Korea Institute for National Unification, 57.9% of South Korean citizens had responded that unification is necessary. The number had declined as 62.1% of South Korean citizens thought unification is necessary in 2016. Among the respondents of the 2017 survey, 13.8% 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 31.7% disagreed.
At the start of 2018, following Kim Jong-un's New Year message of lowering military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and improving ties with the South, relationship between the two countries has seen a major diplomatic breakthrough. On 2 Jan 2018, South Korea formally invited North Korea to 2018 Winter Olympics and offered high level talks to discuss about its participation on 9 Jan 2018, which the latter accepted. On 3 Jan 2018, North Korea reopened a border hotline with South Korea, restoring a channel of direct dialogue and signaling a possible thaw in relations.
|Common Name||North Korea||South Korea|
|Official Name||Democratic People's Republic of Korea||Republic of Korea|
Chosŏn Minjujuŭi Inmin Konghwaguk
|Coat of Arms|
|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)|
|Largest City||Pyongyang – 2,581,076||Seoul – 10,464,051 (25,650,063 Metro)|
|Government||Unitary Juche one-party
totalitarian socialist republic
democratic constitutional republic
|Established||9 September 1948||15 August 1948|
|First Leader||Kim Il-sung||Rhee Syng-man|
|Current Leader||Kim Jong-un, WPK
Kim Yong-nam, WPK
President of the Presidium
Pak Pong-ju, WPK
|Moon Jae-in, Democratic
Lee Nak-yeon, Democratic
|Legislature||Supreme People's Assembly
Chairman: Choe Thae-bok, WPK
Vice Chairman: Kim Wan-su
Vice Chairman: Hong Son-ok
Speaker: Chung Sye-kyun, Independent
Vice Speaker: Shim Jae-chul, Liberty Korea
Vice Speaker: Park Ju-seon People's Party
President: Kim Pyong-ryui
President: Kim Yi-su (acting)
Chief Justice: Yang Sung-tae
Leaders of the two states
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.
The Allies had originally envisaged a joint trusteeship which would usher Korea towards independence, but most Korean nationalists wanted independence immediately. 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. 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. Society was centralized and collectivized, following the Soviet model. Politics in the South was more tumultuous, but the strongly anti-Communist Syngman Rhee emerged as the most prominent politician.
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. 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.
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. The DPRK proclaimed Seoul to be its official capital, a position not changed until 1972.
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. Syngman Rhee refused to sign the armistice, but reluctantly agreed to abide by it. 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.
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.
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. 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. In August 1971, the first Red Cross talks between North and South Korea were held. Many of the participants were really intelligence or party officials. 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. In return, North Korea's deputy premier Pak Song-chol made a secret visit to Seoul. 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. It also established the first "hotline" between the two sides.
North Korea suspended talks in 1973 after the kidnapping of South Korean opposition leader Kim Dae-jung by the Korean CIA. Talks restarted, however, and between 1973 and 1975 there were 10 meetings of the North-South Coordinating Committee at Panmunjom.
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. This contradictory behavior has never been explained.
In September 1984, North Korea's Red Cross sent emergency supplies to the South after severe floods. Talks resumed, resulting in the first reunion of separated families in 1985, as well as a series of cultural exchanges. Goodwill dissipated with the staging of the US-South Korean military exercise, Team Spirit, in 1986.
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. This failed, and the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 in 1987 was seen as North Korea's response. 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. 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. This coincided with the admission of both North and South Korea into the United Nations. 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.
The goodwill generated began to dissipate with disagreements over North Korea's nuclear program which led in 1994 to the Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea. At the same time, the end of the Cold War brought economic crisis to North Korea and led to expectations that reunification was imminent. 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.
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. As a result, Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The summit was followed in August by a family reunion. In September, the North and South Korean teams marched together at the Sydney Olympics. Trade increased to the point where South Korea became North Korea's largest trading partner. Starting in 1998, the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region was developed as a joint venture between the North Korean government and Hyundai. In 2003, the Kaesong Industrial Region was established to allow South Korean businesses to invest in the North.
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. In 2006, however, North Korea resumed testing missiles and on October 9 conducted its first nuclear test.
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. North Korea denied all such allegations and responded by severing ties between the countries and announced it abrogated the previous non-aggression agreement.
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. The official North Korean news agency, KCNA, stated that North Korea only fired after the South had "recklessly fired into our sea area".
In 2011 it was revealed that North Korea abducted four high-ranking South Korean military officers in 1999.
On December 12, 2013, North Korea launched the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2, a scientific and technological satellite, and it reached orbit. The United States moved warships to the region. 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.
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. 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.
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. Since then South Korea started propaganda broadcasts to the North.
On August 20, 2015, North Korea fired a shell on the city of Yeoncheon. South Korea launched several artillery rounds in response. Although there were no casualties, it caused the evacuation of an area of the west coast of South Korea and forced others to head for bunkers. 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. 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. 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. South Korea responded that they have a plan to assassinate Kim Jong-un.
On December 2016, President Park Geun-hye was impeached by the National Assembly of Korea because of political scandal. As a consequence, this incident led to the end of Park administration and policy towards North Korea was extremely unstable during the transition period. When President Moon Jae-in took over the government, there was a transfer of power from the conservative party to the liberal party.
On December 31, 2017 in his New Year address, North Korean president Kim Jong Un struck an "unusually conciliatory" tone in wishing South Korea success in its hosting of the 2018 Olympics, in stating his wish for a "peaceful resolution of the Southern border," in declaring that North Korea would only resort to using its nuclear weapons as a defensive measure if North Korea's security was threatened, and in offering to send a North Korean delegation to the upcoming Olympics in South Korea.  On 9 January, 2018 the dialogue began at 10:00 am at Seoul time on a positive note. As a result of the dialogue, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea signed a joint statement for the press, in which they listed the main agreements. Thus, it was decided to resume the work of the hotline between the military of the two countries, with the goal of preventing the deterioration of the situation on the Korean peninsula. Representatives of Pyongyang informed that the DPRK has completed the technical work necessary to restore the line, and that it will begin its normal work on Wednesday morning. The work of the communication channel between representatives of the armed forces of the two states was interrupted in 2013 on the initiative of Pyongyang. The delegates also agreed to hold consultations between the military of the two countries on reducing tensions on the inter-Korean border. It was decided that the DPRK would send a representative government delegation, a demonstration team of Taekwondo athletes, fans and a support group consisting of dancers and musicians to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Whether the DPRK intends to send its athletes to participate in the Games is not reported, but it is said that issues related to the Olympics will be discussed at further meetings. The DPRK invited the Republic of Korea to hold talks in Panmunjom on January 17, 2018 at the level of deputy ministers to discuss the participation of the DPRK in the winter Olympics in South Korean Pyeongchang. The DPRK proposed to discuss the details of sending the North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will be held from February to March in Pyeongchang in the east of the Republic of Korea. 
Clements: I like it. It doesn't have an overt character. I have been told that there have been 200 other such operations and that none of these have surfaced. Kissinger: It is different for us with the War Powers Act. I don't remember any such operations.
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