North Korea VS South Korea:It would be difficult to find two countries any different from each other than North and South Korea.

South Korea is an economic powerhouse with trade agreements with the European Union and America among others while their neighbour to the north is subject to numerous sanctions for threatening to export a nuclear warhead, atop a missile.

However, Korea was not always split in two, but sitting at the crossroads between the larger powers of Russia, China and Japan saw Korea being pulled by all around her; leading to Korea being divided in two.

So how did this happen?

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Joseon Dynasty had ruled over a unified Korea for the better part of five centuries.

This kingdom was a nominal client kingdom of China, however, China Qing Dynasty was waning and Korea found herself wedged between the regional powers.

The First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 resulted in a clear victory for Japan, which gained the territories of the Penghu, Taiwan, and the Liaodong Peninsula as spoils of war and secured the independence of Korea with china renouncing any claims to the peninsula.

North Korea VS South Korea

Russia saw this as opposed to Russian interests and with the support of France and Germany diplomatically pressured Japan to repatriate some of her gains to China, which would be leased to the Russians providing a warm water port in the Pacific.

This diplomatic success cemented Russia as a power within the region and humiliated the Japanese.

The now-independent Korean was now free to make its own associations, and with Russia’s diplomatic success Queen Min advocated stronger ties between Korea and Russia in an attempt to prevent Japanese influence in Korea.

So Japan saw Queen Min as a barrier to their interests in Korea, and Japanese agents orchestrated an assassination.

Korean Royalty took refuge at the Russian legation, and the following year the Empire of Korea was declared.

The rivalry between Russia and Japan came to a head in 1904 with the Japanese Navy attacking the Russian Eastern Fleet at Port Arthur, China, starting the Russo-Japanese War.

Japan was victorious in the hostilities, and with their victory over a European power, Japan entered the world stage as a great power.

This encouraged their imperial admissions, and Korea became a protectorate of Japan with the 1905 Protectorate Treaty.

Just five years later Japan annexed Korea to their colonial empire.

Japan saw more victories with the first world war, entering on the side of the allies againced Gemany.

But while western powers were wrecked by the war in Europe, Japan was relatively unscathed.

As such, after the war, western nations were displeased to see expansionist moves,

but Japan was confidant and determined not to follow the Chinese as lose their world power status.

Japan’s expansion into China resulted in diplomatic isolation, limiting trade, and hungry for resources their conquests continued until escalating to become the Pacific theatre of the Second World War, this time on the Axis side.

Korea under Japan was seeing mixed results.

Japan was building infrastructure, however, with World War two to fight, Japan conscripted Korean men into the Japanese Imperial Army, and women were forced into service as sex slaves.

Japans exploitation of its fledgling colonial empire wouldn’t win the war however and Japan would eventually unconditionally surrender leaving the fate of their empire in Allied hands prior to the end of the war the United States, The United Kingdom, and the Republic of China agreed that “in due course, Korea shall become free and independent” at the Cairo Conference.

The soviets were not present because at at the time they were not at war with Japan.

But three months to the day after Germany’s defeat, and two days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan.

Soviet troops were quickly moving to engage Japan, and America worried that the entire Korean peninsula would fall under communist control.

Using a National Geographic map, it was hastily decided to divide Korea in half on the 38th parallel.

The Allies resolved Korea would be divided, in much the same way as with East and West Germany, with trusteeship over Korea for up to five years in the lead-up to an independent and united Korea.

Unification however wouldn’t come, with cold war tensions building, talks between the Soviets and Americans failed to move towards a unified administration.

The Soviet Union withdrew as agreed in 1948, and America withdrew the following year.

Leaving South Korea to gain independence with general elections on May 10, 1948.

After the division, South Korea crushed communist guerrilla forces, most notably with the Bodo League massacre, between 100,000 and 1,140,000 people, were executed on suspicion of supporting communism.

While in the North the Soviets installed Kim Il-sung as chairman of the North Korean branch of the Korean Communist Party.

But it was Kim who convinced Stalin that the time was right to unify Korea under communism.

This took some time as Stalin initially resisted, waiting for communism to prevail in the Chinese Civil War and for their first atomic tests to be completed to deter American retaliation.

But in April 1950, Stalin gave Kim permission to invade under the condition that China would send reinforcements if needed.

North Korean forces moved across the 38th parallel, The United Nations Security Council resolved to condemn the attack and recommend member states provide assistance to South Korea.

The Soviets could have vetoed the resolution but were boycotting in protest of the Taiwanese “Republic of China” and not the mainland “The People’s Republic of China” holding a permanent seat.

America, and other allies, joined in support South Korea, and at first, it went badly for them.

North Korean forces were well trained and cornered now mainly American forces in the Pusan Perimeter.

But the tide turned with a change in tactics and American made an amphibious landing near Seoul.

Troops from the Pusan Perimeter moved up to take back the South.

With air superiority America pushed back over the 38th parallel and beyond.

But this triggered China to enter the war and push the Allies back again.

Fighting around the 38th parallel continued until an armistice was signed on 27 July 1953 to end the fighting, but not quite technically ending the war; with control of the peninsula ending very similar to where it had started, but now separated by a four-kilometer-wide Demilitarized Zone.

The war had devastated both nations, with bombings resulting in massive damage to their economies and infrastructure.

South Korea stagnated after the war, with minimal assistance provided by America.

But things began to change with The April Revolution in 1960 which saw 142 people killed by police and South Korea entered the Vietnam War on America’s side and received an allowance of more than 235 million dollars and military procurement from the United States and was able to industrialize and modernize.

North Korea’s economy, on the other hand, was at first robust, the Soviets and Chinese cancelled war debts and helped rebuild, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union aid dried up and North Korea suffered The Arduous March, a widespread famine that devastated the economy.

Today North Korea is one of the most isolated nations in the world, internet access, for example, is only permitted with special authorization -depriving North Koreans of opportunities and information available elsewhere.

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