Few people can have missed that Dictator Kim Jong Il launched a ballistic missile on April 5th 2009. Moreover, it’s the same Taepodong-2 rocket onto which North Korea presumably may mount nuclear warheads. The Taepodong-2 has a theoretical range of reaching Japan, Hawaii and Alaska. This is as close a nuclear war the world has been since the Cold War.
Japan, together with the U.S.A. have always played a stern North Korea policy since the Korean War armistice in 1953. Meanwhile, China has a more reasonable tone towards North Korea and the regime. Possibly because they are immediate neighbors and that they were allies during the Korean War. However, since the Taepodong-2 launch when one rocket stage landed in the Sea of Japan and the other fell together with the payload in the Pacific Ocean, even China might have to reconsider.
The United Nations Security Council condemned on April 13th the North Korean launch. In response to that, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said that North Korea discontinues all Six Party talks and will re-enact the nuclear enrichment program. The Yongbyon reactors, crucial for North Korea’s Plutonium production have been restarted, and all IAEA inspectors have been expelled from the country.
Korea has been a unified nation since the 5th century A.D. It was occupied by Japanese forces in 1895 during Japan’s imperial expansion. After Japan’s victory over the Russian navy in 1905, Korea was declared Japan’s protectorate. During the 1930’s and later the Second World War, Japan oppressed the Korean people, stripping them of rights and education. The Japanese forced them into slave labor and depleted Korean food and metal resources, literarily sending the Koreans back several centuries of development.
Together with the Soviet Union, the U.S.A. divided the country in two at the 38th parallel in order to drive out the Japanese in 1945. The division of North and South was decided by the two superpowers without the consent of the Korean people. Even though the Japanese surrendered on 10th of August 1945, Japanese administrators were still in their original positions of power prior to the capitulation; by order of the U.S. Moreover, the U.S. had no intention of restoring Korean rule over the country. Instead they demanded more U.S. control which made them an eye-sore in the eyes of the Koreans. 35 years of oppression, continued by both Japanese and Americans infuriated the people.
The U.S.S.R. and U.S. agreed that both Korean sides should have self-rule after 4 years of supervision. Though, the only governments allowed were the ones in line with each superpower’s ideological position. This caused mass-riots in South Korea, where things slipped out of U.S. control. People in favor of the left-wing were prosecuted; tens of thousands were killed. At the same time; Kim Jong Il’s father, Kim Il-Sung became the leader of the North Korean government, quickly subduing any opposition and severing connections to nations outside of the communist world.
The year was 1948; Soviet and the U.S. left the peninsula when both Korean sides had “found” their leaders.
Both Kim Il-Sung and South Korea’s President Syngman Rhee wanted to unify the Korean peninsula. But, clashing ideologies soon escalated into the Korean War which was in effect a proxy war between the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A. Today, both countries are run more or less independently (yet, U.S. troops are helping South Korea to uphold the armistice). North Korea has the 4th largest standing army in the world, and South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy. Roughly along the 38th parallel is a 4 km wide belt called the demilitarized zone, in which there is a train station used mainly for freight. It’s still awaiting the day families on both sides of the border can be reunited – once again.