Korean Peninsula is located in Northeast Asia between Japan and China. For many years, Korea was unified and ruled by dynastic kingdoms. The rule of the Joseon dynasty came to an end after Japan annexed Korea in 1910 (Eckert et al., 1990). The end of World War II brought peace to many countries; however, it heightened tension in Korea between the United States and the Soviet Union. Today, North Korea and South Korea are separated geographically, and the decades of separation have turned them into two different worlds. Several factors can explain the Korean division, including social, security, political factors, and military factors. The differences between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) dictated the trajectory of the division.
The Korean peninsula was divided into two different countries with different laws, economies, and daily life. While North Korea survives on aid, South Korea is one of the wealthiest economies in the world. Since the division, the two states experience different fortunes, with North Korea being isolated under the Kim family dynasty while South Korea prospered after the industrial revolution (Lee and Lee, 2019, p. 297). The United States feared that the Russians would spread their ideology of communism to other nations. Therefore, they moved their troops to South Korea to contain the spread.
The Korean peninsula was divided after the escalating cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, two rival superpowers. In 1945, the Soviet army set up a communist regime in the north of the 38th parallel, and at the south of the line, the United States military government set up its base. The peninsula division was mainly centered on the political differences of the two states; capitalism and communism. This decision to divide Korea into two zones was made without the Koreans (Golshahi, 2019, p. 54). The leadership of the two rivals reached an understanding that the arrangement was only temporary until Korea was ready for self-rule (Schweikhard, 2018). The divide was meant to be only for a short while until Korea was under a new government.
When the U.S. called for a vote for Koreans to determine the nation’s future, the occupants of the north did not participate. The two superpowers tried to agree but failed, with neither side willing to compromise their political ideology. Furthermore, the Cold War onset hastened the failure of the trusteeship and negotiations between the Soviet Union and the U.S (Kang, 2005). The leaders of the rival groups, Kim Sung and Syngman Rhee, both believed in the reunification of Korea and separately attempted to take control of the peninsula.
In 1950, the communists in the north launched a surprise attack on the south, but this triggered a major confrontation with the American forces backed by the United Nations. This projected invasion by Kim Sung failed and turned into a three-year-long war (Hwang, 2016). In 1953 a truce was then signed, and this led to the creation of the Demilitarized zone at the 38th parallel, which is, to date, heavily patrolled on both sides.
Factors that Led to The Division of the Korean Peninsula
One contributing factor was security, as DPRK was a threat to ROK. The American forces were motivated by the desire for security and political stability. The Soviet Union in North Korea was heavily hinged on nuclearization, and this issue created political instability. The ever-looming threat of nuclear weapons played a vital role in the division. The Soviet Union used cyber networks to hack into resources and cut off power sources to destabilize South Korea’s Americans (Horton, 2020). The Soviet Union nuclear and atomic bombs to attack the South Korean community. These security issues influenced political stability, and nevertheless, DPRK continued to develop nuclear programs despite international pressure to denuclearize.
Korea has experienced political and cultural influence, and this played a significant role in its division. From being colonized by Japan to the Soviet Union and United States governments’ forced rule, this destabilized the roots of the peninsula. However, many scholars argue that the division was based on outside intervention. The peninsula division can be explained by how the international community interacted with the two states (Golshahi, 2019, p. 52). When the Soviets launched a surprise attack, China sent its combat troops into North Korea. On the other side, U.N. member countries backed South Korea and sent military troops to support the Americans. This resulted in millions of lives lost and enormous destruction of property.
Another major contributing factor that best explains the division of the peninsula is the intervention of the two superpowers. The Americans in the south committed their resources and soldiers to fights against the spread of the Soviet Union ideology. They demonstrated their ideas using the Truman Doctrine, which supported freeing people worldwide (Park, 2020). The United States set up a Pusan Perimeter to counter the advancement of the communist to the south. The Soviet Union wanted to remain sovereign and in power. DPRK viewed the American forces as a threat to their power. ROK wanted to stay sovereign and believed their form of government was the best. The Soviet Union, on the other side, backed the political ideology of communism (Robinson, 2007). This lack of a common ground favored the division of the peninsula.
Additionally, the division was solely political, based on both the American and the Russians’ strategic goals. ROK has managed to change to a democratic rule and grow South Korea’s economic status to aid their policies (Lee and Lee, 2019, p. 300). The reformed foreign and international policies influenced the economic growth in the south. On the other hand, DPRK remained communist and desired to have total control of the government, which resulted in poor economic growth. This economic and regime of the ROK has fostered animosity between the two states.
It would be irresponsible to ignore the impact of social factors in influencing the division of the peninsula. Linguistics purity and Juche ideology play a significant role in the partition of the peninsula. North Korea was heavily influenced by Soviet culture that was based on self-reliance. DPRK sought to keep purity to strengthen their nature of self-sufficiency. This made it difficult for defectors to connect with the meaning of a new language (Cumings, 2005). On the other hand, ROK did not support linguistic purity as they desired to be more open to foreign and international markets. The capitalists on the south of the 38th parallel adopted outside languages, especially English, a primary language of globalization.
My opinion is that the division resulted from the ideological differences that set the stage for animosity and resulted in the partition of the peninsula. The Kim dynasty promoted the Juche ideology and the cult of personality also referred to as the sole guiding idea (Horton, 2020). This ideology had fundamental principles based on the independence of politics and the economy. The dynasty used the mechanism to maintain a totalitarian and isolationist form of government, meaning all the power was vested within their rulers. Also, the Soviet Union live a command economy where the government-controlled natural and capital resources.
In contrast, the U.S. system believed in capitalism, meaning that people could own land. This form of government sparks a difference between the rich and the poor. Also, it was democratic, meaning the people of South Korea could elect their leaders freely.
In conclusion, throughout this research, it is vivid that the division of the peninsula can be attributed to the difference in regime, social, economies, and policies and divergent identities of ROK and DPRK. It can be noted that the different views of ideas have been diverging through ideologies. The differences between the two superpowers played vital roles in the division of the peninsula. South Korea remained a democratic and libertarian community while firmly being anti-communist. Within the DPRK society, Juche ideology has influence imperialism and the view of Confucian policies and ideals. These divergent ideas fostered the division of the Korean peninsula. The differences between the two rival superpowers made it challenging to find a middle ground for reunification. These differences are not easy to reconcile, but if taken into account, more viable solutions can present themselves after that. The answer to the division can be through removing cyber threats, nuclear weapons, and an overhaul of the government policies in the region.
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