One has to make the sharp distinction between the Northern and Southern part of Korea. Korea is located in the region in Korean Peninsula and divided in two parts: North Korea and South Korea. Without doubt, two countries have gone on totally different paths and become two extreme examples of the ideologies of capitalism and communism.
The woes of Korea dates back to the end of World War II. Before that, it was under the occupation of Japanese empire. After the humiliating defeat in war with high death toll in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese empire collapsed and gave up its claims of its colonies. Then, Korea became the first victim of cold war between US and Russia which still continues. After WW II, both USA and USSR became suspicious over spreading their influence globally. Western Europe came directly under the influence of USA. So, USSR became more anxious. The outcome of this trust deficit defined the second half most of the twentieth century. Russia sought the buffer zone between the Western Europe. So, the iron curtain was drawn and much of the Eastern and Central Europe became communist. Germany was divided into two part including Berlin. In addition, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania became the communist state. But, USA and USSR could not come to the mutual solution to the fate of Korean peninsula and thus the country was divided in to two parts in 1948. This proved to be a terrible mistake which cost many lives which continued till today. Without any fault, Korea became the victim of growing suspicions between two superpowers which were trying to exert their influence across the world by “any mean”.
The Northern part came under Russian influence with the leadership of Kim-Il Sung and became communist state. The Southern part came under influence of US & Japan and became democratic country. The 38th parallel became the dividing line between two countries and it is the most heavily guarded border with around two million soldiers close to the border. Plus, the land mines have been deployed on both the sides.
In 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea in order to unify two Koreas. North Korea, with support of USSR and China, quickly captured Seoul and continued advancing towards south. US intervened along with UN Peacekeeping troops which halted their advance. This continued until 1953 and resulted the loss of more than two million lives from both sides. It left both Koreas devastated but no peace treaty signed between both the parts. So, both countries are still at war technically.
Then, both countries have taken totally different paths. Today, North Korea has been listed in one of the poorest countries in the world. The regime has been considered to be the most suppressive regimes in the world. It controls all aspects of lives in general public. Majority of the population do not have access to clean water, food and other basic needs. There is constant violation of human rights and people are not allowed to speak against the government. People have been dying constantly due to deficiency of adequate food supply which continued after the decade long famine in 1990s which killed around two million people. People’s life expectancy rate is one of the lowest in the world due to the lack of basic health facilities.
People are not allowed to speak against government and they constantly live under the threat. To continue maintain the control, the government constantly threatens the public about the “imperialist” Japan and USA. North Koreans have always been taught about the state-run propaganda about policies of these countries to destroy their “most beautiful” country in the world. The state runs media and all other means displays the “so-called” achievements of government and how they struggled to survive against other brutal regimes.
The Kim dynasty have acquired next to God in North Korean mind. The regime demonstrated the birth of Kim-Jong Il as the arrival of “angel” on planet and cosmic events happening simultaneously to mark a arrival of “great personality” in world as a propaganda. Hence, they have acquired the mystique status in minds and hearts of Korean people. They always portrayed Japan and US as “imperialist nations” which divided Korea and killed many people. People live under constant threat of being attacked by enemies. The access of the information is limited in public. The government broadcasts the state-operated radio and television channels to run only the propaganda and does not allow the broadcast from the foreign operators. In addition, public is not allowed to have access to cell phones and internet facilities but it is available to only few government buildings and universities. It is also illegal to hear the radio station ran from South Korea. Thus, the government has controlled the minds and heart of people through various means.
North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world and it is the most militarized country. There are around 10 million people in active and reserve troops. It invests heavily in chemical weapons and nuclear program. Thus, it spend a large amount of money into building military where as majority of the country is dying due to lack of food. North Korea have always threatened and tried to provoke South Korea for military intervention. So, South Korea, along with US and Japan, has entered into agreement to save the interests of South Korea. The regular joint military exercised between US and South Korea take place as a response of it.
International community has boycotted North Korea for its nuclear program. George Bush condemned it as one of the Axis of Evil in 2001 and condemned the program. Since the inception of program, international community imposed many sanctions against it to prevent it from obtaining nuclear bomb. Even after that, it continued its program and it has allegedly obtained them which put Japan and South Korea in grave danger. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is only 60 km away from the border and it puts in very dangerous situation. North Korea’s behavior has always been suspicious even though it agreed to cooperate in investigations of its nuclear program.
After the death of “dear leader” Kim-Jong Il, it was expected that North Korea will have paradigm shift as his son Kim-Jong Unn overtake the regime. He is very young and very little is known about him. But, he continued the ‘legacy’ of suppression, brutality and aggression by following the footsteps of his forefathers. In April 2012, he tried to test the missile on the centenary of his grand father but the testing failed miserably.
It is shame that such regimes exist in 21st century when the rest of the world has moved on from the aftermath of World War II. But, the power struggle between Koreas still reminds us the time of cold war.
Unlike North Korea, South Korea has moved on and it has become one of the most developed and industrialized nations in the world. South Korean multinationals like LG, Samsung and Hyundai are very prominent examples of this. South Korea’s reputation in international community has been rising and it is the one of the most successful examples of modernization in the world. It also organized Olympics in 1988 and co-hosted football world cup along with Japan in 2002.
Two Koreas definitely remind us West and East Germany. When the Berlin Wall fell on 9th November, 1989, it was considered to be the fall of communism, iron curtain in Eastern Europe and USSR. But, North Korea has continued to be the same unlike the rest of the world.