Division Of Korea Into North and South
A nation’s separation goes deeper than a line on a map; it splits the hearts of its citizens. Those who were unified for generations are now divided and have to admit that politics has taken precedence over the ties of family, language, and tradition. A generation that witnessed the division and was torn apart from their loved ones is depicted in sadness in photos from the touching reunion of Korean families in February 2014. Younger generations identify as both South and North Koreans.
The tightly guarded Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea is all that is left today, and the two nations could not be more dissimilar from one another.
A Breif History
Once the Gorveo dynasty was overthrown in 1392, the Josean dynasty took control of the Korean peninsula and controlled it for more than 500 years. With Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, this rule was abolished. During 35 years (1910–1945), Korea was a harsh Japanese colony, and during that period, the Korean people fought valiantly to retain their culture. The teaching of Korean history and language in schools was forbidden under the Japanese occupation, and residents were forced to take on Japanese names and speak only Japanese. Much more historical Korean documents were destroyed by the Japanese. For the most part, farming was done to meet Japanese desires.
For the most part, farming was done to meet Japanese desires. Koreans wanted to establish a free country when Japan was defeated in World War II, but they had no idea what would come next.
The 38th Parallel
Why did the Korean Peninsula divide, and who was to blame for it? are the two most important questions. When news of Japan’s surrender spread in 1945, the USSR was already moving forward through Korea and destroying the Japanese army. Japan was on the verge of surrender. The US feared that the Soviet forces would completely take control the peninsula at that time because it did not yet have a base there. US troops weren’t present mostly because it was assumed that Japan would surrender at a certain time. The US proposed a temporary split of the Korean peninsula between the US and USSR in order to prevent the Soviets from annexing the entire peninsula.
The future US Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, and US army colonels Charles Bonesteel were requested to examine and propose a dividing line on the Korean map. While Soviet soldiers were already established in Korea’s northern region, US troops were located 500 miles distant. Around 30 minutes were allotted to the two US army officers to propose a line of demarcation. They chose to divide the area along the thirty-eighth parallel because it is naturally prominent. The colonels made an effort to make sure Seoul supported them and that the demarcation was clearly visible. The USSR agreed to the suggestion, which limited Soviet forces to the 38th parallel while allowing US forces to eventually take control of the South. At this point, the division was intended to be a temporary administrative structure, and Korea was to be reunited under a new administration.
The influence of the different superpowers in control of the area—the Soviets supported communism and the US supported capitalism—furthered the polarization of the divergent political ideas that already existed within Korea. To create a single democratically elected administration in 1947, the United Nations was tasked with supervising elections in both the North and the South. The proposed election would never take place because of the severe lack of trust. The Russians prevented the elections from taking place in the North and instead backed communist leader Kim II Sung as the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In the South, where Syngman Rhee was supported by the US as the head of the Republic of Korea, the situation wasn’t much different (ROK).
Despite the fact that both leaders supported the reunification of Korea, their views were not just dissimilar but actively antagonistic. Both the US and the Soviet Union were required to remove their soldiers from the peninsula a year later as per a UN accord. Despite the fact that it did occur, there was still a sizable presence in the shape of diplomats and advisors from both nations.
Although there were frequent skirmishes between the newly divided districts, no actual attacks occurred until 1950. Midway through 1950, the DPRK, supported by the Soviets, saw an opportunity to unify the entire peninsula under communist government and attacked the ROK. In a period of three to four months, the DPRK army completely encircled the peninsula. But, after the UN stepped in, reinforcements for South Korea came from about 15 different countries, with the US accounting for the majority. It became even more complex when China backed the DPRK. Armed conflict came to an end in 1953 with an armistice, creating the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a boundary that is well patrolled and runs nearly the entire length of the 38th parallel.
The Bottom Line
The horrific Korean War and the superpowers’ planned actions both failed to bring Korea back together. Today, North Korea and South Korea are not only geographically and politically divided, but also have become completely distinct universes as a result of their separation for nearly seven decades. While the North’s people still depends on aid, South Korea is one of the trillion-dollar economies. The rights of citizens, rules and order, economies, communities, and daily life are different in the two countries. However, Korea’s long history as a single country will serve as a constant reminder of its illogical division.