History of Korea Part III

Korea was finally liberated from Japanese rule at the end of World War II -- but only to become entangled in the fierce Cold War ideological conflict that led to the formation in 1948 of two separate states, the Republic of Korea in the south and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north, divided along the 38th parallel. In 1950, North Korea launched an all-out attack on the Republic of Korea, triggering the Korean War, which raged until 1953. The devastating conflict was ended by an armistice agreement which established the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that now divides the Peninsula.

Reunification remains the long-cherished but elusive goal of all Koreans on both sides of the vigilantly guarded Military Demarcation Line. The fall of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany raised expectations in Korea that unification could be achieved in the not very distant future. Some apparent progress in promoting trust and cooperation between the two halves of the peninsula was made in 1991 and 1992, but the threat of North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons development program undermined such progress.

On June 13th, 2000, South Korean president Kim Dae Jung visited North Korean Worker's Party Chief Kim Jong Il. This astonishing meeting was the first time in 55 years that the leaders of the two nations had met. They talked of the possibility of reunification and arranged for an Independence Day (August 15th) gathering to reunite families separated by the Korean War. They plan to meet again in South Korea in 2001.

Kim Dae Jung was selected as the winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Peace on October 13th.

Article courtesy of the Korean Overseas Information Service.

  1. Part I
  2. Part II
  3. Part III