The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aka DPRK, aka North Korea, is located in east Asia on the northern half of the Korean peninsula. It is a country some refer to as a “Hermit Kingdom”, based upon its attempts at self sufficiency, communist totalitarian government, and the lengths its regime goes to in order to shut in its people and block-out outside influences. Today North Korea and its estimated 24.9 million in population is lead by Kim Jong-Un, a totalitarian dictator with nominal communist tendencies. For many years now the North Korean government has systematically starved, tortured, brutalized, and brainwashed its citizens into utter submission and it does not take kindly to any sort of resistance from anyone under its rule. The North Korean people have little to no access to medical care, electricity, nutritional foods, and if the North Korean Regime even suspects the slightest infringements of insubordination by any of its citizens, they can be easily found guilty and sentenced to many years of forced labor in their labor camps, (which have been compared to the Holocaust camps), or even publicly executed . This regime has a general disgust for any democracy and humanitarian ideologies and does not back down to any global factions, including the U.N. (United Nations Committee.) In 2014 the U.N. made a declaration of trying the North Korean regime with crimes against humanity, but with the global balances afraid of exasperating an already difficult line between peace and war, nothing has yet come of these declarations . With the way things are sitting right now in east Asia begs the question, how did the balance of power end up this way for North Korea? And how did the cold war contribute to North Korea’s increasing international isolation and totalitarianism?
The North Korean regime was once a force to be reckoned with. It was a premier strong-arm for the progressing Soviet Union and its communist-socialist politics, as well as a replicator of it. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it sank the North Korean economy and put a vicious strain on its people. North Korea’s progress has been stunted and without the might of a super-power to facilitate its strength, North Korea struggles to co-exist with a globalizing world. In the 1900’s relations between Japan and Russia/China were a bit sour as both Japan felt entitled to the Korean peninsula, but so did Russia/China. After Japan perpetrated a surprise attack against Russia’s port Arthur in 1904 and having success, Japan garnered a higher reputation from Russia/China as one of a strong military Imperial status. Roosevelt and the Americas gave their blessing to Japan’s desire for Imperial rule over Korea in 1905, just as long as Japan would recognize the Philippine’s as a colony belonging to the British and the Americas. Japan then proceeded to take a hostile and malicious colonization and occupation of the Korean peninsula between the years of 1910-1945. Japan’s soul purpose in these 35 years was to completely remove and replace the historical identity of the Korean Choson Dynasty that was built upon Confucian principles for many centuries, to being one of all things Japan. Japan was seen by the West as an enlightener of Korea. Around the 1920’s Korean’s began to resist Japan’s harsh, degrading, Imperial rule over them which resulted in the forming of a Korean guerrilla resistance force that fought the Japanese. The Korean guerrilla fighters were given support by communist Russia and China. One of these Korean guerrilla fighters turned out to be Kim Il Sung. Accounts of Kim Il Sung were and still are widely disputed between the divided Korea’s, with the North claiming Kim single-handedly defeated the Japan Imperialist, and the South claiming Kim was just an imposter who stole the name of a revered Korean guerrilla patriot .
Kim Il Sung was born on April 12th, 1912 (the same day the Titanic sank.) He joined the communist guerrilla resistance force against Japan in the early 1930’s. Kim Il Sung is believed to have been a junior officer for the Chinese/Soviet command until 1945 when WW2 ended. After the war the Eastern communist super-power needed an overseer of the northern half of Korea that they laid claim to. Kim Il Sung was selected by Joseph Stalin to manage the northern half, while the southern half held elections for their leadership and eventually elected Syngman Rhee. The reality of the situation was that Kim was to be a Soviet puppet, and ended up being that between 1945-1950. All of Kim’s leadership and power was just a direct extension of Stalin’s dictations. During this time, both Korea’s claimed authority, divinity, and legitimate right over either side which created friction. Not only was this friction felt between the DPRK and the ROK, but it was also felt by the Chinese/Soviet governments as well as America and the United Nations. Kim Il Sung and the DPRK put much pressure on Stalin for permission to invade South Korea and liberate it from the U.S. Imperialists and their puppet Syngman Rhee, but Stalin refused because he did not want to provoke a confrontation with the U.S. In late 1949 after the USSR created and successfully tested their first atom bomb while consolidating friendly communist power over China, Stalin now had more confidence in his military might, and in early 1950 began planning an invasion of the ROK with Kim Il Sung .
The Korean War, which officially was announced/commenced on June 25th 1950, was stated to the American public in such a manner, ” The Soviet puppets in North Korea have set the match to the powder train.” With this metaphorical match being lit acknowledged the transgressions on the 38th parallel, (which was the global latitude line that separated North from South Korea,) which was established originally by American forces to push out the surrendering Japanese forces that once held military occupation in the Korea’s. The front line distinction between the North and South Korea’s (38th parallel) became the precursor to the North Korean soviet-red army supplied, allied, forces power move over the the newly created front-line into the democracy of South Korea (ROK). With this clear action of war the United States frantically gathered an immediate meeting with the United Nations to contend to the soviet military action upon South Korea. With the absence of Russia to those meetings the United Nations disapproved of soviet engagements past the 38th parallel and the Korean War began .
Bruce Cumings stated in his book, “North Korea: Another Country”, “For the Truman cold war liberal, Korea was a success, the limited war. For the MacArthur conservative, Korea was a failure: the first defeat in American history, more properly a stalemate, and in any case the result proved that there was no substitute for victory.” During the start of the Korean War the American GI’s were told that as soon as the North Koreans saw the whites of yankee eyes, they would turn tail and run. The reality was far more different as the North Korean fighters were completely underestimated by President Truman and General MacArthur. The North Korean forces were radically fanatical soldiers committed to the cause of fighting for their beloved homeland, their Korea. Once American soldiers started getting pushed back towards South Korea by the North Korean and Chinese infantry, General MacArthur turned towards an air superiority fight and ordered the destruction of every means of communication, every factory installation, and every North Korean city and village burned to the ground with napalm and B-29 incendiary bombs. The U.S. had used more napalm in the Korean War than it had in the Vietnam War, and its heavy use was down-played as only American strategic battle victories were in vogue at the time; with no attention being paid to how the battles were being won. Between 1950-1953 over 54,000 American GI’s were killed, over three million North Korean soldiers were killed, over one million South Korean soldiers were killed, and nearly one million Chinese soldiers were killed. The great historical sadness of the Korean War was how it turned the Korean people against each-other creating a whole other dynamic to this war which resulted in unknown/untold amounts of innocent civilians being slaughtered in the paramount paranoia of its madness. In the Korean War the divided Korea’s were a hot-bed for civilian atrocities and deaths as suspicions of who was working with the enemy and who was a foe, drove many Korean and American soldiers completely mad, and death became the calming of fears .
As U.S. president Harry S. Truman proclaimed the Korean War thirty-seven months in the previous, so president Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed its end with the signing of the Armistice Treaty on July 27th, 1953. With the signing of the Armistice treaty by all nations involved with the Korean War conflict, brought about a peaceful cease-fire and an end to the brutal and futile battle between the soviet-socialized factions of the northern part of Korea and the U.S./U.N. democratize- backed part of southern Korea. Though the war ended on the fighting front which was once called (the 38th parallel), it was reinstated and renamed to, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). President Eisenhower on a public broadcasting on radio and on television warned that the war on a political and diplomatic scale was far from over. Eisenhower reassured the U.S industrial defense-complex and its government labor-equipment funded markets, that it would not be lessened or going away anytime soon as the Korean conflict was still a problem in non-war engagement and that the U.S. and the United Nations needed to be cautious and vigilant towards its potential soviet aggressors . With the Cold War already in effect the stakes between soviet based aggression’s and the U.S./U.N. declarations against it, things in North Korea on the political/economic scale began to weigh in, and heavy lies the crown.
The stages of North Korea’s social, political, cultural, and economical transitions of advancement started in 1945-1948 with the people’s democratic reform. Then after the devastation and destruction North Korea suffered in the 1950-1953 Korean war, another advancement of the DPRK began in 1953-1956 with the socialist reform. And then in 1957-1960 began the socialist revolution which built up to the 1961-1970 socialist construction. Kim Il Sung’s approach to political, social, cultural, and economic reforms to North Korea were primarily based on the theories of Marxism and Leninism. Clashing the two theories together branded Kim Il Sung’s theory/style of leadership and socialist construction to the creation of Kim’s Juche ideology (self-identity), (self- reliance). The North Korean people were known to give Kim Il Sung way to much credit due to certain enduring factors the DPRK went through, making Kim out to be some kind of rock-star. The (National Liberation Revolution 1931-1945) was the term used to explain Kim’s struggles and defeat of the hostile Japanese Imperialist rule, while the (People’s Democratic Revolution 1945-1972) was the term used in crediting Kim with his tactics of removing American occupation out of North Korea and keeping it out. These circumstances of dual revolutions and their prevailing champion Kim Il Sung, created the perception to the North Korean people that Marxism-Leninism were the contributing forces behind the DPRK’s mass historical liberation and it was all thanks to the leadership of Kim Il Sung .
The support that the Soviet Union and China gave to North Korea in its 25 years of postwar reconstruction was also quiet pivotal in its rising status. The implementation of Kim Il Sung’s ideological liberation of North Korea brought back 90% of its industrialized factorizes, and property/land ownership to the hands of the people and the state of North Korea by 1949. This economic and property reform was greatly encouraging to the DPRK and gave Kim Il Sung a good enterprising image which helped uplift his status of being the Great Leader. The Korean War destroyed all these gains and in its postwar years of 1953-1956 Kim Il Sung, along with his communist allies, once again brought industrial production and economic growth back to the DPRK and continued to produce some of its best know years of economic gains. These gains continued well into the 1970’s and during the North Korean socialist revolution and socialist construction days, included the developments of technological industrial advancements along with a rising agricultural and educational improvement. Once again, Kim Il Sung was credited by the North Korean people with these reforms with his style of leadership, impeccable representatives, and his continual guidance that raised the status of living in the DPRK to one of never before seen historical level. If it weren’t for the Soviet Unions economic support North Korea’s growth would have been almost non-existent .
Since the 1953 Armistice the unification of Korea has been a topic of noble pursuits. From 1953-1970 the divided Korea’s were very weary and distrustful of each-other; rather instead content on spending those years rebuilding their own countries and domestic economic prowess. In August of 1971 Kim Il Sung publicly declared that he was ready to have peaceful talks with the South Korean leadership/diplomats anytime and anywhere. Following this gesture in March of 1972 leaders/diplomats from both sides of the Korea’s began talks taking place in both Pyongyang and in Seoul. Unfortunately the two very different government factions could not come to any marginal agreements on the unification of Korea, but they both still continued with public peace talks well into the 1980’s. Currently both sides still have enormous amounts of distrust and despondent positions towards one-another .
The Cold War was by all accounts very beneficial to the developing North Korean regime as it received aid from the (Soviet-led council for Mutual Economic Assistance) program. By being a communist-socialist-totalitarian state, it made a consistent and obedient ally for the Soviet Union; while at the same time Russia had become one of the biggest exporters of North Korean production goods, so the DPRK’s economy relied heavily on the Soviet Union’s foreign relationship. In the 1980’s the DPRK’s economic growth had begun to spiral downward. Then in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed it had to turn its back on North Korea and as a result their economy collapsed and wide-spread famine hit the DPRK. The 1990’s berated the North Korean regime with many problems such as: Their industrial sector became old and outdated, the once good-agricultural producing land had also become old and tattered while subsisting highly on large quantities of expensive fertilizers. And all the while the North Korean government turning a blind eye to the deteriorating civilian sector, spending a majority of their countries profits on the military and elite sectors of its regime. Eventually the North Korean won (money) had become worth-less and the peasant society had to turn to illegal black-market activities based on the U.S. dollar currency. Soon almost all North Korean restaurants, hotels, businesses, and embassy’s were running on U.S. dollar currencies as well as Chinese Yuan’s. The North Korean black-market has became one of the biggest sources of income for its poor working class citizens .
Kim Il Sung died on July 8th, 1994 at the age of 82 of an apparent heart-attack. The entire North Korean population publicly wept hysterically for several days as its great liberator was laid to rest. His son Kim Jong Il toke his position of power as leader of North Korea. Kim Jong-Il is responsible for making the communist state a nuclear one and further antagonized its military supremacy while his people were starving in the streets . Kim Jong-Il died on December 17th, 2011 at the age of 69 after having a heart-attack similarly like his father. Once again the entire North Korean population publicly wept hysterically while he was being put to rest. Speculation stated that Kim Jong-Il suffered a stroke in 2008 and began prompting his youngest son Kim Jong-Un as successor to the seat of power and fate to the North Korean regime . Kim Jong-Un was put into power immediately after his fathers death and is called “The Great Successor.” The Kim Dynasty started in a time when it could thrive, but now that time is over. It would appear that Kim Jong-Un has invested and leveraged himself with North Korea’s military-elite complex just as his father did before him. The Great Successor has inherited his own kingdom, and is still enforcing it through means of oppression and intimidation. Let the world keep a limelight on the North Korean regime, and an open heart towards its all to often struggling citizens.
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