"The State of The World" Number 9
Complete Index Of All Issues
Why Was Korea Divided Into North And South?
The Korean people are one of the most-ancient nations ("nation" means a people of a common origin) of Asia. Western historians generally mark the beginning of the country ("country" means a sovereign territory) of Korea from the end of the conflicts of the "Three Kingdoms" that existed from about 57 BC to 668 AD. Although subject to various imperial threats in the region over the centuries, Korea, as a sovereign people, existed as a single country for many centuries.
As shown on the map below, Korea is situated on a peninsula that is located across a sea from the islands of Japan. The name of that sea depends on who and where you are - to most of the world, it's now known as the Sea of Japan, while to Korea (North and South), it's the East Sea (the older, more original name). As we will read, the difference is due to politics, not geography.
In 1910, Korea was occupied by Japanese invasion forces, annexed, and reduced to an imperial province of Japan. In the years that followed, the Korean people were brutally treated. Millions of Koreans were made virtual slaves in which over 400,000 died. Hundreds of thousands of Korean women were subjected to sexual slavery by the Japanese army, described with the now-infamous term "comfort women."
With the defeat of Japan at the end of the Second World War in 1945, Korea was liberated from two directions - the U.S. from the south and the Soviet Union from the north. Although the U.S. and the Soviet Union had been allies against Germany and Japan during the Second World War, the "Cold War" thereafter, the struggle between capitalism and communism, caused the U.S. and the Soviet Union to divide Korea into the communist North Korea and the capitalist South Korea (the same way and time that the U.S. and the Soviet Union divided Germany into the capitalist West Germany and the Communist East Germany.
So the political and economic-system division, imposed by foreigners according to their own choices of how to run their countries, became the Korea of today.