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Peace Between the Koreas

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In late April, an unbelievable thing happened in the Korean peninsula. North and South Korea made steps toward a permanent peace. This may not seem like a big deal for some people, but the two countries have been separated for nearly 60 years with little sign of ever uniting again. The closest thing the two countries had to a peace treaty before this year was the Korean Armistice in 1953. Although it did end the Korean War, it purely was a ceasefire. 

According to History.com, the Koreas were split during World War II in 1945. North Korea was occupied by the Soviets while South Korea was occupied by the United States. The line of division between the two countries is referred to as the “38th Parallel” in reference to its location at 38° N latitude line. Japan controlled Korea during World War II in an attempt to gain more territory. The US and the Soviet Union wanted to stop Japan’s conquest for more land, but according to National Geographic, “American officials worried that they [the Soviets] would rush in to occupy the entire Korean peninsula before the U.S., whose nearest troops were still 600 miles away on Okinawa, could establish its own presence on the mainland.” The Secretary of State at the time, Dean Rusk, and his staff had an impromptu meeting the day of Japan surrendering on where the line of control between the US and the Soviets would be. Rusk said in his memoir, As I Saw It, “Neither Tic [Rusk’s Army Staffer] nor I was a Korea expert, but it seemed to us that Seoul, the capital, should be in the American sector. We also knew that the U.S. Army opposed an extensive area of occupation. Using a National Geographic map, we looked just north of Seoul for a convenient dividing line but could not find a natural geographical line. We saw instead the thirty-eighth parallel and decided to recommend that … [Our commanders] accepted it without too much haggling, and surprisingly, so did the Soviets.” 

By this alone, Korea was divided, and it would stay that way for over 60 years. The leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, was a communist dictator and was fine with the Soviet’s support. In the south, Syngman Rhee, an anti-communist dictator, was fine with the American support they were getting, and both newly formed “states” didn’t like the confines of the 38th Parallel. North Korea invaded South Korea with 75,000 soldiers in June of 1950 and started the Korean War. America helped by sending their troops into South Korea in July; eventually the Americans and North Koreans formed an armistice, stopping the fighting. The armistice, however, did not stop the social divide the two countries had with both countries being bitter of each other for decades. 

In recent years, it’s appeared that North and South Korea have been trying to fix their relationship with each other again. In this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, North and South Korea participated as one team, Korea. During early April, Pyongyang hosted a concert full of South Korean musicians. K-Pop, or Korean Pop music, is banned in North Korea, but according to The New York Times, Kim Jung Un was deeply moved and, “he clapped, and he smiled, even posing for a group photo with a K-pop band.” Although it’s not too much now, hopefully the countries stay peaceful towards each other in the future. 

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Peace Between the Koreas