When Did North And South Korea Separate

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The division of Korea between North and South Korea occurred after World War II, ending the Empire of Japan’s 35-year rule over Korea in 1945. The United States and the Soviet Union each occupied a portion of the country, with the boundary between their zones of control along the 38th parallel.

With the onset of the Cold War, negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union failed to lead to an independent, unified Korea. In 1948, UN-supervised elections were held in the US-occupied south only. The anti-communist Syngman Rhee won the election while Kim Il-sung was appointed as the leader of North Korea by Joseph Stalin. This led to the establishment of the Republic of Korea in South Korea, which was promptly followed by the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in North Korea. The United States supported the South, the Soviet Union supported the North, and each government claimed sovereignty over the whole Korean peninsula.


The subsequent Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, ended with a stalemate and has left the two Koreas separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) up to the present day.

Why Are North And South Korea Divided

It began in 1875 when Japan decided to invade Korea during their time of political instability. Following Japan’s invasion, the country began to trade extensively with the Korea Peninsula transforming it into a foreign trade and commerce hub.

In 1894, the Donghak Peasant Revolution broke out and the Korean government asked for Chines assistance in ending the revolt. This angered the Japanese leading to the Sino-Japanese war in which Japan won. However, the wife of the Korean emperor, Queen Min, had anti-Japanese sentiments and resorted to building closer relations to block out Japanese influence. An assassination against Queen Min was plotted. In October 1895, Queen Min was killed and her body burnt to cover the traces of her murder.

Japanese occupation was short-lived, which ended after 35 years, following the bombing of two Japanese cities nearing the end of WWII and invasion of Korea by Japan. In 1945, Japan surrendered.

Fearing that Korea may become a communist nation under Soviet’s rule, the Korea Peninsula was divided into half marked by the 38th parallel. The North was occupied by Soviet while the South occupied by US. Both countries worked toward unifying Korea but failed due to geopolitical tensions. Thus, US appealed for UN to intervene. However, since the Soviets were permanent members of the UN Security Council, they were able to veto on UN’s decision to uphold free elections in Korea.

Thus, South Korea’s first president came into power and the Republic of Korea came into existence. Meanwhile, North Korean became a communist regime under the leadership of Kim Il Sung and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was found.


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