Sunday, July 27, 2008

Korea's Second Division Fifty-fifth Anniversary

Hundreds of thousands died for such small geographical change

Fifty-five years ago today the Korean peninsula was divided two, again, in a cease-fire agreement between the United States led United Nations, the People's Republic of China, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK aka North Korea). The Republic of Korea (ROK aka South Korea) refused to sign the cease fire and considers itself still in a legal state of hostilities.

Before the First Korean War the Korean peninsula was divided along the 38th Parallel between American and Russian zones. Both countries agreed in World War II that Korea should form a free and independent buffer zone. However, after the war neither side could agree on a formula for unification. So in 1948 both sides created Korean governments in their zones: communist in the Soviet zone and officially capitalistic but in reality an anti-communist dictatorship in the American zone. Neither government recognized each other and both laid claim to represent all of Korea. This continues to this day.

After a few years of small scale battles the Communists invaded the south. A United States-led United Nations army achieved near victory until the non-UN member People's Republic of China intervened and nearly won a communist victory. Stalemate was achieved after two more years of bloody conflict. A routinely violated demilitarized zone, another war, and a nuclear crises have been the conflict's legacy.

The south has modernized, globalized, and democratized while the despotic north claims it is the champion of the Korean race and it must protect the race from unclean foreigners under a military-style government.

Today both countries (Government sites for South and North claims) think themselves as the Korean government. However, both sides are at opposite extremes of what they want. Little break through is seen until leadership change or collapse happens in the north. The quest for unity continues on the divided peninsula.

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