North Korea and South Korea - Divisions, history & profile
North and South Korea, Division and present relationship
The Korean peninsula is divided between two sovereign states: South Korea or Republic of Korea and North Korea or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. These two Koreas have different economies, ideologies and follow different politics.
The relationship between North and South Korea has never been easy, but it has recently developed towards a more conciliatory approach.
North and South Korea – History of their division
North Korea was divided from South Korea at the 38th parallel in 1945, following the end of the Second World War, when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces. At the time Japan occupied Korea, which then was divided into two areas of influence: North Korea under USSR influence and South Korea under USA influence. Russia and United States were unable to agree on a joint trusteeship over Korea, so in 1948 the two Koreas formed two separate states, each one following an opposite ideology (communist in the North and capitalist in the South).
Korean Civil War started on the 6th of June 1950, when the North Korean People’s Army attacked South Korea in an attempt to reunify the two Koreas under the communist ideology. The Korean Civil War went on until 27th July 1953 when, under the supervision of the United Nations, the parties involved signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement. Since then, the Korean Demilitarised Zone has separated North and South Korea. Technically, North and South Korea are still at war, because they only signed an armistice and not a peace treaty.
North Korea – a Brief Profile
North Korea, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is an authoritarian state, where only one political party exists and it is a juche (self reliance) state. The type of government is a dictatorship and the only North Korean president ever existed is Kim Il-Sung, its founder and Eternal President, who was not replaced when he died. Now, the effective head of the North Korean state is Kim Jong-Il, Kim Il-Sung’s son, who is Chairman of the National Defence Commission. The capital of North Korea is Pyongyang.
North Korean economy is based on agriculture and, while North Korea seemed to be doing fine in the 1960s and 70s, its economy went downhill in the following decades. In 1997 a terrible famine struck North Korea, caused by the end of Russian economic help, by natural disasters (floods followed by drought) and by the country’s isolation and technical backwardness.
North and South Korea – present relationships
Relationships between North and South Korea in the past used to be very difficult, with a strong anti North Korea propaganda promoted in the South. In the last ten years the relationships have been softening and the two Koreas are seeking reconciliation. The first step towards dialogue was taken with the North and South Joint Declaration of 15th June 2000. Then, in 1998, former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung introduced the so-called ‘Sunshine Policy’.
The Sunshine Policy advocates a peaceful cooperation between North and South Korea and states that: the South will not tolerate armed provocation from the North; the South will not attempt to absorb the North and the South seeks cooperation with the North. The last point in practice means that, according to the Sunshine Policy, South Korean companies are allowed to invest in North Korea. Current South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun is continuing his predecessor’s policy.
On the 9th October 2006 the Sunshine Policy was in peril, due to North Korean missile tests and South Korea suspended its humanitarian aids to North Korea since then. However, some projects are still going on like Mount Gumgang Tourist Region or Kaesong Industrial Region.