Already in the 3rd millennium BC. the area of today’s North and South Korea was populated by Tungusic tribes, which belonged to the Mongolian peoples and presumably came from northeastern Asia. Legends tell of the Choson Empire, which is said to have existed as early as the 3rd millennium, but for which evidence only dates from the 4th century BC. gives. In the 2nd century BC Much of what is now North and South Korea became part of the Chinese Empire. Only in the south of the Korean peninsula did a number of independent small states remain.
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When the power of the Han dynasty ruling in China declined at the beginning of the Christian era, three empires emerged in Korean territory: the Koguryo empire in the north, the Paekche empire in the middle of the peninsula and the Silla empire in the south. In the highly developed realms, Chinese characters were used, among other things, and Buddhism and Confucianism became the dominant religious movements over the next few centuries.
In the 7th century AD Under the domination of the Silla Empire, the three empires were united into one empire, which encompassed the entire Korean peninsula and which was under the sovereignty of China, but was practically independent. After disputes over the throne and peasant uprisings, the great empire fell again into the three individual empires around 900. According to AbbreviationFinder, Koguryo in the north was renamed Koryo in 918 and subjugated the other states. The new empire under the Wang dynasty was recognized as independent by China in 939. Buddhism became the state religion.
In 1231, the Koryo Empire and the entire Korean Peninsula were occupied by Mongols (who then continued their triumphal march to northern and southern China). From 1280, Koryo was part of the Chinese Empire, which was led by the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Buddhism was banned and replaced by Confucianism.
After the decline of the Yuan Dynasty (1368), the Ming Dynasty (until 1644) followed in China, which had a strong influence on Korea. In 1392, General Yi Sungye succeeded in overthrowing the last ruler of the Wang dynasty and founding the Yi dynasty himself as King Yi Taejo. The city of Hanyang (today: Seoul), founded in 1096, became the capital of the new Korean empire.
At the end of the 16th century, the Korean Empire, which had now roughly reached the size of what is now North and South Korea, successfully resisted an attempted Japanese invasion (1592-98). In 1627, Korea was subjugated by the Manchu people, who also ruled China from 1644 onwards as the Qing Dynasty (also: Manchu Dynasty). The ruling Yi dynasty in Korea became a tribute to the Manchu dynasty. To minimize the influence of foreign powers as far as possible, the Korean rulers then tried to completely isolate their own country from the outside world. Despite this demarcation, however, western influences came into the country in the form of missionaries who carried the Christian faith with them.
Korea’s isolation ended with the “Kanghwado” treaty of 1876, in which Japan forced the country to open some ports for Japanese ships. The country had to conclude similar contracts with the USA (1882), Great Britain (1883) and the German Empire (1884). The royal family’s power in Korea declined and the country was shaken by internal crises. Japan won the first Sino-Japanese war (1894/95), which was about domination in Korea. The Korean Kingdom was officially independent, but in fact it was controlled by Japan. In order to escape the influence of emerging Japan, the Korean leadership made contact with Tsarist Russia, but after Russia was defeated in the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05), the country officially became a Japanese protectorate.
In 1910, Japan declared Korea to be a Japanese colony (General Government) under the name Chôsen. In the following years, the industrialization of the country was pushed forward in great steps, as was the modernization of agriculture and the development of mineral resources: Korea served Japan as a raw material supplier for valuable raw materials, but the Korean population did not benefit from the economic development. The Japanese occupiers suppressed the culture and traditions of the population up to the ban on the Korean language (1939).
Uprisings against the occupiers, such as in 1919, led to a temporary liberalization that was not permanent. An exile government (“Shanghai Group”) was formed in Shanghai from 1919 under the leadership of Syngman Rhee. From 1934, communist partisan groups led by Kim Il Sung (“Irkutsk Group”) tried to bring the north of the country under their control.
After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the Japanese occupation ended in 1945. According to the agreements of the victorious powers, Korea was initially divided along the 38th parallel, Soviet troops occupied the northern, US troops in the southern part of the country. The UN passed free elections for all of Korea to reunite, but the outbreak of the Cold War between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, prevented this. In northern Korea, the Soviet occupying powers established a government in collaboration with the Communist Party. When Korea’s National Assembly elections were held in the American-occupied south, the government boycotted it in the north and called on the communist groups in South Korea to resist.In August 1948, the new South Korean President Syngman Rhee proclaimed the Republic of Korea, only a month later the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed in the northern part. Kim Il Sung, the party leader of the “Korean Communist Party of Workers” (PdAK), became North Korea’s first prime minister.
The American troops left South Korea shortly after the republic was proclaimed. In June 1950, North Korean troops began to penetrate south of the country with the aim of forcing reunification. The Korean War broke out. Within a few days, Seoul was captured and defeated the South Korean army. With the help of UN troops led by the United States, South Korea succeeded in pushing the North Korean troops back behind the line of demarcation and in turn now penetrating North Korean territory. In October 1950, the UN troops conquered the northern capital Pyongyang. As a result, China, which had previously warned the UN about crossing the demarcation line, intervened in the conflict and dispatched troops. The first ceasefire negotiations started in June 1951, but it was not until July 1953 that an agreement was signed in which a four-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel was decided. Around 2.5 million people had lost their lives in the chaos of war.
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The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were instrumental in rebuilding North Korea and transforming it into a communist state. The measures included the nationalization and expansion of the heavy industry created by Japan and the collectivization of agriculture. North Korea was largely economically dependent on the Eastern Bloc countries, but the leadership tried to remain politically independent. When the relationship between the Soviet Union and China deteriorated in the 1960s, Kim Il Sung tried to maintain good relations with both states.
A new constitution in December 1972 further expanded Kim Il Sung’s position of power, who was now president, party leader, chairman of the People’s Committee, the National Defense Commission, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the early 1990s, both Korean states were admitted to the United Nations. At the same time, the heads of state of both parts of the country signed a non-aggression pact.
The collapse of the Eastern Bloc led to a severe economic crisis in North Korea due to the loss of key trading partners. Kim Il Sung, who had led the country’s political fortunes since the emergence of North Korea, who died in 1994. His son Kim Jong Il took over his political office. In the mid-1990s, the economically depressed country tried to establish trade relations with the United States. Secret reunification negotiations with South Korea had repeatedly failed at that point. In May 1995, the North Korean leadership approved food supplies from South Korea for the first time in order to reduce the famine of its own population. Flood disasters repeatedly led to crop failures.In May 1997, the entire North Korean population was at risk of starvation, that could only be offset by international food deliveries. Aid organizations accused the political leadership of North Korea of spending millions on armaments instead of improving their own people’s food situation.
In the second half of the 1990s, tensions between the two parts of Korea increased again: Political and military threats on the part of North Korea led to South Korea fearing an attack. The North Korean leadership had officially upheld the so-called Juche principle of Kim Il Sung, which provided for the reunification of North and South Korea to maintain its own governments and different social systems. There were repeated conflicts between North and South Korean troops over the next few years, while at the same time there were repeated attempts to negotiate internationally on a future reunification of both parts of the country.
In June 2000, the South Korean leader Kim Dae Jung made a historic visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. Both heads of state agreed a future course of reconciliation and an opening of the land, sea and air routes. In mid-2001, the North Korean government took a harder course: Kim Jong Il broke off diplomatic talks with the South Korean government and also refrained from his announced visit to Seoul. It was not until April 2002 that government representatives from South and North Korea met again. However, the leadership of the People’s Republic reverted to the previous rhetoric of the enemy after the impending change of power in South Korea at the end of 2007 showed a tougher gait compared to North Korea. Compare also South Korea, history.
Relations between North and South Korea deteriorated again in 2010. A South Korean corvette was sunk southwest of Baengnyeong Island in March 2010 by a torpedo that came from a North Korean submarine. North Korea rejected the blame; South Korea imposed a trade ban and a passage ban for ships from North Korea from May. The situation remained tense and in November 2010 the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong was shot at by North Korea.
After the North Korean government admitted to working on the development of nuclear weapons in October 2002, there was a crisis between North Korea and the United States. In October 2006, North Korea, which it claims has had several ready-to-use atomic bombs and corresponding carrier systems since 2005, carried out an underground nuclear weapon test for the first time. This led to harsh criticism worldwide that the UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions on North Korea. In September 2005, the “Joint Declaration” was signed by the participants in the six-party talks (in addition to North and South Korea as well as China, the United States, Russia and Japan) in Beijing: while the other parties declared normalization of their relations with and economic support from North Korea.In February 2007, the North Korean government agreed in the final declaration of the six-party talks in Beijing to implement the “joint declaration” immediately. The first step was the decommissioning of the Nyongbyon nuclear reactor, 100 km north of Pyongyang. After that, however, North Korea curtailed its cooperation efforts. After the Pyongyang leadership finally allowed the United States to inspect the North Korean nuclear facilities in the future, the United States accepted this on behalf of the group of six. In October 2008, Washington removed North Korea from the list of countries considered to promote terrorism (“the axis of evil”); nevertheless, many sanctions against North Korea remained in effect.Despite international protests, North Korea launched a launch vehicle with a communications satellite in April 2009, and further nuclear tests were conducted in May. After renewed tests with short-range missiles in July, the UN Security Council imposed further sanctions on North Korea. Prime Minister Kim Yong-nam subsequently declared that the talks between the six parties had failed.
North Korea continues to launch rockets and test nuclear weapons. After the transfer of power to Kim Jong-un in April 2012, there were initially new hopes, but another atomic bomb test in February 2013 destroyed it. North Korea responded to renewed sanctions by the UN with the termination of the 1991 non-aggression pact with South Korea and declared war in March 2013. However, the situation soon relaxed again. In February 2014, high-level contact between North and South Korea took place for the first time in three years.