A Nation Divided
The Cold War division of the Korean peninsula has led to two starkly different societies. From the ruins of war, South Korea has experienced economic growth, rapid industrialization, and technological and educational advancement. North Korea, in contrast, has become one of the most repressive and isolated regimes in the world, with a stagnating economy, massive human rights abuses, and a nuclear-armed military.
In recent years, the prospect of reunification has taken on new interest and urgency, with recent polls showing more than 80 percent of South Koreans having a favorable view of reunification. A landmark speech by South Korean President Park Geun-
“I believe that the Republic of Korea will . . . reach ever greater heights after unification. The northern half of the Korean Peninsula will also experience rapid development. A unified Korea that is free from the fear of war and nuclear weapons will be well positioned to make larger contributions to dealing with a wide range of global issues like international peace-keeping, nuclear non-proliferation, environment and energy, and development.”
—an excerpt from an address by Park Geun-hye, former President of South Korea, Dresden, Germany (2014)
How Korea Became Divided
The 73-year division of the Korean peninsula following the conclusion of World War II has undermined global security, separated a people with a shared history and tradition, and prolonged a humanitarian crisis in the North.
For five centuries Korea was governed as an independent kingdom, a period that came to an end in 1910 with the annexation of Korea by Japan. Korea endured 35 years of harsh Japanese occupation that repressed Korean language and culture, exploited Korean labor, and violently suppressed Korean nationalist movements.