The North and South Korea Split

The Asian Articles
3 min readApr 14, 2021

written by Karen Lin

Before Korea was divided centuries ago, it was a unified country. However, this came to an end in 1910, when Japan formally annexed Korea. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule for 35 years until the end of World War II in 1945, when Japan surrendered to the Allies and thus began the division of Korea.

The Korean peninsula was divided into two occupation zones between the United States and the Soviet Union, giving them divided control over the Korean peninsula. During that time, the United States controlled the south, while the Soviets controlled the area north of the 38th parallel. Many middle-class Koreans during this time also fled to the south of the 38th parallel.

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union resulted in two separate governments being established in 1948, with one in Pyongyang, North Korea, and the other in Seoul, South Korea. A communist government in North Korea was established by the Soviet Union, while an elected government was established in the South. Additionally, the anti-communist Syngman Rhee was appointed as the leader of South Korea by the United States. North Korea, on the other hand, was led by Kim Il-Sung, who was a former guerilla.

Wanting to unify the Korean peninsula under his communist regime, Kim Il-Sung invaded South Korea in June 1950. With the aid of the United States, South Korea fought back against the North. During the war, China joined hands with North Korea in November 1950 against the American forces, and the Soviet Union also supported the North. This eventually turned into a three-year-long Korean War lasting from 1950 to 1953, resulting in the deaths of at least 2.5 million people. On July 27, 1953, the conflict between the North and the South ended, and an armistice was signed, which then led to the creation of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at the 38th parallel. This continued to separate North and South Korea from each other. However, since there is no peace treaty between the two, they are both technically still at war. Ever since 1953, there has been a very minimal movement across the DMZ between North and South Korea.

Since the division between North and South Korea, the Koreans in each territory have lived very differently, separate lives for 70 years. With the ongoing ties between South Korea and the West, the country gradually developed into a vigorous economy and has made progress towards becoming a fully democratic nation. Contrary to South Korea, North Korea continues to be an isolated nation. It also remains with an underdeveloped economy and has been ruled by the same family for three generations.

Sources:

Cover Photo by rawkkim on Unsplash

  1. Pruitt, S. (2018, February 09). Why are north and South Korea divided? Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.history.com/news/north-south-korea-divided-reasons-facts
  2. Szczepanski, K. (2019, July 18). How Korea split into North Korea and South Korea. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-north-korea-and-south-korea-195632
  3. Lee, J. (2017, July 5). 4 things to know about North and South Korea. Retrieved February 08, 2021, from https://theconversation.com/4-things-to-know-about-north-and-south-korea-80583
  4. The Korean War. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2021, from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-worldhistory2/chapter/the-korean-war/

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