Korea Divided

A victim of geo-politics

Sunset over Seoul from the Banpo Bridge by Robert Koehler

There has been human habitation on the Korean peninsula for a very long time as evidenced by pottery dating to around 8000 BC. Like most of the world of the time, kingdoms formed, some merged and eventually Korea became distinct from China, Siberia and Japan although shamanism common to the northern latitudes was widespread and linked to Siberia, Mongolia and North America.

According to historical evidence, Korea was well developed as a nation. During the period prior to 300 BC, Hinduism and Hindu culture had a strong influence after which  Buddhism became established. According to local history,  in 48 AD a princess Suriratna from Ayodhya (India), travelled to Korea and married King Kim Suro of the Karak Clan and became queen. Today as a tribute to their legendary queen Hur Hwang-ok, descendants of the Karak clan visit Ayodhya every year. They consider Ayodhya as their maternal home. According to an estimate, South Korea has about 600,000 people who are Karak descendants. While Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism have been the strongest influences, Christianity has flourished in modern times and Buddhism has experienced a revival while shamanism has survived.

Modern history

After nearly two centuries of peace, the Joseon dynasty faced foreign invasions and internal fractional strife, beginning in 1592 until 1637. Henceforth, Joseon gradually became more and more isolationist and stagnant. By the mid 19th century, with the country unwilling to modernize, and encroachment of European powers, Joseon Korea was forced to sign unequal treaties with foreign powers. After the assassination of Empress Myeongseong in 1895, the Donghak Rebellions of 1894-1895, and Gabo Reforms of 1894 to 1896, the Korean Empire (1897–1910) came into existence and a brief but rapid period of social reform and modernization occurred. However, in 1905, the Korean Empire was forced to sign a protectorate treaty and in 1910 Japan annexed the Korean Empire, though all treaties involved were later deemed to be invalid.

Korea was ruled by Imperial Japan from 1910 until the closing days of World War II. In August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Imperial Japan in agreement with the United States. The Russians liberated Korea north of the 38th parallel and U.S. forces subsequently moved into the south. By 1948, as a product of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, Korea was split into two regions, with separate governments. The "Republic of Korea" was created in the south with the backing of the US and Western Europe and the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" backed by Russia and China.

Both claimed to be the legitimate government of all of Korea, and neither accepted the border as permanent which remains contentious today.  The new premier of North Korea, Kim il-Sung launched the Korean War in 1950 in an attempt to reunify the country under Communist rule.

What few people in the world realises is that the USA was already on a march for global domination. It promises democracy and freedom for the people but most of us have learned that this simply gives US backed corporations the ability to exploit the countries they control. From the outset, South Korea along with Japan and many other countries became vassel states of the USA. A part of its campaigning involved spreading fear of communism which like modern democracy has been a failure yet the intelligentsia within the Communist bloc could see this unfolding which is most likely what prompted the North Korean's to try and take over the south in 1950.

The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating UN forces.  American planes dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea,  that is, essentially on North Korea including 32,557 tons of napalm, compared to 503,000 tons of bombs dropped in the entire Pacific theatre of World War II. The number of Korean dead, injured or missing by war’s end approached three million, ten percent of the overall population. The majority of those killed were in the North, which had half of the population of the South; although the DPRK does not have official figures, possibly twelve to fifteen percent of the population was killed in the war, a figure close to or surpassing the proportion of Soviet citizens killed in World War II.

After immense material and human destruction, the conflict ended with a cease-fire in 1953, but the two nations officially remain at war because a peace treaty was never signed. Both states were accepted into the United Nations in 1991 and while both countries were essentially under military rule after the war, South Korea eventually liberalized, and since 1987 the country has advanced politically and economically in the American way. The South Korean economy has prospered, and the country is now considered to be fully developed with a similar per capita economic standing to Western Europe, Japan, and the United States.

However North Korea has maintained a militarized Communist dictatorship with a cult of personality constructed around the Kim family. Due to economic sanctions imposed by the USA, a country still paranoid about communism, North Korea has been slow to develop and is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that aid fell precipitously, and the economic situation has been marginal though in the period.

The North Koreans can neither forget or forgive the USA for what it did during the Korean War, the indiscriminate bombings of schools, hospitals and civilian infrastructure. So it has remained openly defiant and locked in a time warp of grief that today drives it to develop its nuclear weapons capacity because even though the war is over, the US sanctions remain in place (and have been heavily increased as of August 2017). It is not only sanctions, most US politicians have various stages of their careers threatened North Korea with further punishments and invasions. Back in 1999, Donald Trump was advocating an invasion and first strike to eliminate the North Korean menace. The USA dictated that North Korea was a rogue state and yet they are one of the smallest and Hamas nations on the planet. In the playground of the world they are the little guy that is continually being bullied.

Reunification of Korea is a strong desire within the North and South, and the recent president Park Geun-hye following the wishes of her people was working to de-escalate tensions between North and South as well as to begin practical steps towards reunification. Unfortunately the USA was not happy about that and conspired to have her impeached and removed from office. The event was dressed to look like a political scandal, but many commentators observing from around the world are in agreement that South Korea is not allowed to act alone, it can only do so with permission of the USA, a country that has not yet finished thrashing the North.


7 comments to Korea Divided

  • Elizabeth

    Hey there. Thank you for this wonderful post and perhaps there is a new hope with the two Korea’s joining for the next winter Olympics and the US sidelined

  • Rutan

    looks like the divisions that the previous lady pm was healing have been reopened beyond repair – prepare for war

  • It was the Allied victory that had ended Japan’s occupation of thirty-five in Korea. February, 1945 Stalin and President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed for a trusteeship for Korea. The Soviets decided to move into Korea from the north which made the US fearful of the spread of communism and the US did not want the Soviet Union to take over all of the Korean peninsula. Since the Soviets occupied the northern part of the country the US wanted to create a US occupation zone, so the US government officials drew an evenly divided line between north and south while still leaving Seoul under US control. August, 1945 the evenly divided line became official. The Soviet Union and the US agreed to divide Korea at this drawn line, more commonly known as the 38th parallel. Late 1945 Allied foreign ministers met up at a conference in Moscow to set up a trusteeship that lasted five years, to have Korea contain a provisional government so the country would be able to become independent. The ministers decided to form a joint US and Soviet body to help organize the provisional government. The Northern Korean communists at first did not agree to the proposal, but eventually changed their minds and pushed for a national divide.

  • Eddie

    when push come to shove, it’s likely that China will take over NC to avoid the bloodbath and having US troops as a neighbour

  • Marion

    most Koreans want unification and are prepared for compromise

  • David Poomi

    When the Japanese empire was dismantled at the end of World War Two, Korea fell victim to the Cold War. It was divided into two spheres of influence along the 38th parallel. The Americans controlled south of the line – the Russians installed a communist regime in the north, later ceding influence to China.

  • Eddie

    So NK is a victim of US imperialism?

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