From Hobson's Choice
Nation of Northeast Asia; rival with the Republic of Korea for sovereignty over the entire nation; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is known colloquially as "North Korea." The DPRK was organized by Soviet-resident Koreans during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and set up in the Soviet-controlled sector of the peninsula after 14 August, 1945. Initially the line of control was the 38th parallel, but on 20 June 1950 the DPRK launched an invasion of the South, which erupted into the Korean War. Since armistice (17 June 1953), the DPRK has remained a highly reclusive totalitarian state, with a nominal allegiance to Communism.
Korea was an isolated and impoverished kingdom in 1876, when the Meiji government of Japan compelled it to open diplomatic relations under pain of naval bombardment. By 1895 it had become a point of contention between the Qing government and Tokyo (First Sino-Japanese War). Subsequently, as a result of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan gained de facto control of Korea (and annexed it 1910).
The period of Japanese colonial rule in Korea was a complex matter, and objective accounts are difficult to find. The Japanese gradually developed a stronger role in governing Korea because of collaboration with the elites. Accounts of Korean history, especially during this period, are hotly debated, but there seems to be statistical evidence that Korea, as with other nations under Japanese rule, experienced dramatic economic development. At the same time, the transformation of Japan into a developmental state mobilized and regimented the population. As a consequence, nationalism developed both an extreme leftist current (represented by peasants and workers who emigrated to the USSR after the 1918 Crisis) and also as an extreme rightist current as a reaction to the sectional conflict of post-1945 Korea.
Independence and Civil War
Korea was under Japanese occupation at the time of capitulation (14 August 1945); the Soviet Red Army entered within days and advanced to the 38th parallel, while armed forces of the United States arrived in early September. During the months and years that followed, the Soviets hastened to create a local base of support (or direct supervision). The United States military government, on the other hand, made no effort to create a Korean government, partly because it had no staff with knowledge of Korea. In October '46 it created a powerless 90-member "South Korean Interim Legislative Assembly" (SKILA), then appointed half of the members (the other half were elected). Four months later, it declared its Korean employees to be the "South Korean Government." In May '48 the first general elections were held for a national assembly, and in August that year the republic was declared in Seoul, followed by recognition in the General Assembly of the UN.
The Western powers in South Korea had leapfrogged past the Soviets by jumping directly from a barely moderated foreign occupation, to a sovereign state with notional authority over the entire peninsula. In contrast, the Soviet sector now had a Communist party with organizations all over the country, but no formal state. As the Republic scrambled to create an actual nation, the Communist Party used tis organization to regiment the North. Hence, on 25 June 1950, the People's Committee (or North Korean proto-state) was massively better armed and prepared for a major war. On that day it invaded the South and overran most of it in a few months.
The war was extremely bloody, killing at least 5% of the population Most of the fighting occurred in the South, which was poorly endowed with natural resources but heavily industrialized.
As a result of the War, Korea was now a flashpoint of the Cold War, even more dangerous than the border between East and West Germany. Moreover, while East Germany's leadership was wholly dependent upon the Soviet Union, both governments in Korea were extremely activist and independent-minded.
- ↑ Myung Soo Cha, "The Economic History of Korea" Yeungnam University (?); "[english.historyfoundation.or.kr/his/modj.asp?pgcode=040204 1876 Treaty of Ganghwa and Reestablishment of Diplomatic Ties]", Northeast Asian History Foundation.
- ↑ Sarah Paine, "The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895" US Naval War College (2002)
- ↑ G. Patrick March, Eastern destiny Russia in Asia and the North Pacific Greenwood Publishing Group (1996), p.173ff.
- ↑ Myung Soo Cha, "The Economic History of Korea" Yeungnam University
- ↑ James Hoare & Andrew C. Nahm, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea, 2nd Ed., Scarecrow Press (2004), p.193
- ↑ Matthew White, "Korean War-Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century"; he gives a range of total Korean deaths of 1.52 million (Compton's) to 3 million (Dan Smith, 'The State of War and Peace Atlas Penguin (1997); cited in by White); presumably Smith's figure includes Chinese deaths in the war, and the Korean-only figure would be 2.1-2.7 million. In 1950, the population of Korea was 30.1 million, so the subsequent war killed at least 5% and possibly as many as 9%.
- James Hoare & Andrew C. Nahm, Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea, 2nd Ed., Scarecrow Press (2004)
- Jaehoon Lee, The Relatedness Between the Origin of Japanese and Korean Ethnicity , Masters Thesis, Florida State University (2004)
- Ki-baik Lee (trans. by Edward W. Wagner), "[A New History of Korea]" Harvard University Press (1984)
- Myung Soo Cha, "The Economic History of Korea" Yeungnam University (?)
- "[english.historyfoundation.or.kr/his/modj.asp?pgcode=040101 Correct History]", Northeast Asian History Foundation (scroll to the right if text not visible).