The separation of the two Koreas has been addressed in The Pacific Century segment
The Fight for Democracy
” and the book
Provide a brief historical
account of Korea’s separation, including the basic causes of the split, and discuss the
efforts that have been made to reunify the two parts of Korea.
What do you think the
prospects for unification might be?
What are the key factors promoting unification and
the key obstacles to prevent it?
Korea refers to South Korea and North Korea together, which were a unified country
until 1948. It is situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia, bordering China to the
northwest and Russia to the northeast. It is populated by a homogeneous ethnic group, the
Koreans, who speak a distinct language (Korean).
Korea was partitioned into two halves
following World War II. South Korea, supported by the United States, is now a capitalist
liberal democracy, and sometimes referred to simply as "Korea". North Korea, supported
by the former Soviet Union, remains a Communist state, often described as Stalinist and
The Unification Flag may represent Korea at international sporting events,
but is not an official flag of either country
History and Division
In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan. Japanese occupation lasted until 1945 when Japan
was defeated by the Allied Forces at the end of World War II.
The occupation by the
Japanese is characterized by most historians as a period of brutal repression. Many
Koreans were forcibly sent all around the empire, men as slave laborers and women as
"comfort women", or military sex slaves.
Although some Japanese historians argue
Korea received some benefits of modernization and infrastructure building during
Japanese rule, anti-Japanese sentiment still runs strong in Korea and other areas of Asia,
as a result of various Japanese war atrocities and what Koreans see as continuing
In 1945, in the aftermath of WWII, the United Nations developed
plans for a trusteeship administration, the United States effectively began administering
the peninsula south of the 38th parallel and the Soviet Union administering north. The
politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments.
In June 1950, North Korea invaded the South, beginning the Korean War. After three
devastating years of fighting that involved China, Soviet Union, the US, and several
United Nations countries (including Canada, Great Britain, and Turkey to name a few),
the war ended in a ceasefire agreement at approximately the same boundary. The two
countries never signed a peace treaty.
Since the 1990s, with progressively liberal South
Korean administrations, as well as the death of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, the
two sides have taken halting, symbolic steps towards cooperation, in international
sporting events, reunification of separated family members, and tourism.
Unification Efforts Pre-1949