Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

State

Capital

Korea (South)

Seoul

Hanguk

Currency unit

Won

Connections

Cold War

Far East

Korea (N)

War

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

History

An ancient civilization much influenced by China. Korea was an ancient kingdom on a peninsula of the coast of eastern Asia. Like Japan, its neighbor, its distant past is legendary and is dated to 2333 BC. Its known history as a political entity dates to 57 BC.

Korea has been influenced by both China and Japan. Its early philosophy and religion and system of writing came from China - though in 1443 a new alphabetic system of writing replaced the Chinese system. Its relation to Japan has something in common with that of England and Ireland. Japanese invasions occurred at several times in Korea's history - as well as invasions from the mainland, including China, the Mongols and the Manchus. A Korean dynasty was founded in 1392 which lasted until 1905.

Like Japan, the kingdom of Korea tried to remain isolated from the western world and only broke down its isolation in 1876 when the Japanese, who had already opened up to the outside world, forced diplomatic relations on the Koreans. From this time begins the modern history of Korea in which the Japanese, Chinese and Russians extended their various conflicts to Korea. The Japanese influence in Korea grew until in 1910 they annexed the country. Until 1945 they ruled it as a colony, much as England had ruled Ireland. During this period Japanese filled all the important government positions down to village headmen. Some Koreans were taken to Japan as slave laborers and forced prostitutes during the 1930s. Their descendants are still there, and still denied citizenship.

A Korean resistance movement continued in being, to emerge at the end of the second world war.

In 1945 southern Korea was then occupied by the Americans and the North by Russian troops. The declared intention of the wartime allies was to create an independent Korea after the Japanese had been driven out. But the dividing line between the two armies - the 38th parallel of latitude - became a frontier between the two states of: North Korea, headed by Kim Il Sung, a Russian- educated Korean Communist; and South Korea, headed by Synghman Rhee, an American educated Korean. The South took the title of Republic of Korea; the North the People's Democratic Republic of Korea.

Both had authoritarian governments, the southern with the forms of democracy - though in practice with "managed" elections; the north with a classical Communist Marxist-Leninist regime. Russian troops withdrew from the north and American troops from the south.

In 1950 the northerners invaded the south, presumably with the intention of uniting Korea as a Communist country, ordered by Stalin. They rapidly pushed the southerners into a small enclave in the south of the country.

A resolution of the Security Council of the UN ordered the northerners to withdraw (the Soviet Representative was absent and so could not veto the resolution). A force, nominally under the control of the UN, was assembled to resist the invasion. The force was largely American with large contingents from Britain and British Commonwealth states, as well as from Turkey and some other allies. Gradually this force pressed the northerners into withdrawing, especially after landings at Inchon (near Seoul), comparable to seaborne landings of the second world war.

China sent assistance after the North Koreans had nearly been defeated by being pushed towards the Chinese frontier. The Chinese may have feared that the allies would push on into China, and indeed the UN Commander General Douglas MacArthur threatened to use nuclear weapons on China - he was dismissed soon after by the US President Truman. The war ended in 1953 with a truce but no agreement other than to stop fighting, and with the frontier in roughly the same position as in 1950. There is therefore even at present no state of peace. Almost the whole country, north and south, was destroyed in the war.

Possible reunification
The North has evolved, much as Romania did, towards a dynastic monarchy. Kim Il Sung prepared his son to succeed him and the cult of personality there is similar to that of a traditional Oriental monarchy. Nevertheless, as the economy has the same weakness as is found in other Communist systems, reunification is likely to take the form of the South absorbing the north, as happened in Germany in 1990. The result would eventually be an important economic power. But it would be even more difficult to achieve than German unification as the northern dictatorship is far more terrifying and complete than East Germany's was and the northern people have been subjected to dictatorship continuously since the Japanese invasion (and the disruption of the Korean War). Moreover they are forbidden to own televisions and radios able to pick up outside broadcasts so are ignorant of the outside world.

Admitted to membership of the UN in September 1991. Until then neither North nor South had been members of the UN, though they had observer status. China had vetoed the application of the South until then.

Languages

Korean

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

Politics

Since the formation of the state most governments have been dictatorships in practice. Elections, when held, were managed. This control is said to be lessening and for the last decade elections for president and parliament have been reported as having been free, perhaps for the first time. Previously there had been a series of military governments formed by military coup and validated by managed election or plebiscite.

The system may now be evolving towards democracy as the wealth of the society increases following rapid economic development. Presidential Elections in December 1992 had no military candidates. The military may therefore be retreating to barracks. But as the democratic system is new there is a question about whether it could absorb the north without reverting to dictatorship. In any case, does the government represent the poorest people? That is, how far does it have the wholehearted support of the whole society? In late 1995 the two previous presidents were arrested for corruption, thus suggesting that the old regime was over.

A president was elected in 2003, alleged to be anti-American, and in favor of negotiation with the north.

He was followed by a president determined to be harder on the north. Did he provoke the North to its naval attack (see War).

A further exchange of fire has occurred at an offshore island on 23 November 2010. Several South Koreans were killed.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

Economics

South Korea is one of the post-Confucian industrial states sometimes known as the Asian Tigers. They have learned from their ancient enemies the Japanese the secret of rapid industrialization: high investment rate, high rate of saving (deferred gratification); high level of education for all, qualities in which they surpass Britain and other Anglo-Saxon countries, using a mixture of state and private business with overall government guidance, helped at first by low wages and low levels of social welfare.

However by the end of 1996 there were signs that the authoritarian system was meeting resistance from the workers who objected to losing their health benefits when sacked - as in Japan they believed they had jobs for life.

Multi-industry conglomerates, on the Japanese model.

There has been some economic cooperation with the North. in December 2007 a regular freight train service was started, across the border, to carry parts to South Korean owned factories in a Special Economic Zone in the North.

After the naval attack of March 2010 this cooperation has ceased.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

Green/Ecology

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

Human Rights

There are violent confrontations between the police and demonstrators. The rule of law is not fully in place as detention without trial is possible. Although the military have withdrawn from government there is still an authoritarian atmosphere.

Last revised 23/11/10


East Asia


Asia


World Info


Home

Return to the top


Since 23/11/10

eXTReMe Tracker