North Korea and South Korea
The history of North Korea begins in the first half of the twentieth century. Since the early 1900s, Japan had occupied Korea. Once Japan surrendered to the Americans in 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States of America decided to initially divide Korea at the 38th parallel, with the Soviets controlling the north and the Americans controlling the south. Both sides promised free elections, however, just as in Europe, the Soviets handpicked their leader and declared a communist country, while the Americans allowed free elections in the South.
Both Koreas were proclaimed as independent countries in 1948. North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), and South Korea is called the Republic of Korea. The Soviets placed Kim Il-Sung in charge of North Korea, and the citizens of South Korea voted their leader into office. The northern government moved quickly to control all industries, control all aspects of society, and to push for conquering the south. North Korea has a “totalitarian state.” This means that all elements of society are controlled by the government. South Korea is a republic, where citizens have political liberties and freedom.
The Korean War (1950-1953)
With the approval and support of the Communist leaders Josef Stalin of the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong of China, Kim Il-Sung of North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, hoping to reunify all of Korea under Communist rule. The Soviet Union aided the north with weapons and military advisors, while China sent soldiers. South Korea was aided by the United States and the United Nations. In 1953, both sides agreed to stop fighting and split the country in two at the 38th parallel. The United States still has soldiers in South Korea.
The Totalitarian State
Kim Il-Sung led North Korea until his death in 1994, establishing a society where the government completely controls everything. He created a Communist society where the state is everything for the people. No one in North Korea is allowed to speak against their leader, have an opinion against the government, or have a religion or believe in God. Punishment for holding an opinion not approved by the state can be torture, forced labor, imprisonment, and execution, not only for the accused but for the entire family and generations to come. North Koreans have no freedoms, including no right to travel within their own country, no right to say what they think, and no right to watch what they want on T.V. Watching a Western T.V. show could mean torture and death for your entire family. The Communist North Korean government has murdered millions of its own people. North Korea is the largest forced labor camp in the entire world.
After his death, Kim Il-Sung’s son and grandson continued the brutal regime. Son Kim Jong-il in 1994 took over, and then his son Kim Jong-Un took over in 2011 when his dad died. The three leaders continued to cultivate the cult of the personality. At every moment in a North Korean’s life, he has to obey the state, or suffer. North Korea has become an international outcast, friends only to groups and countries that sponsor terror.
Sony and The Interview
In 2014, Sony distributed “The Interview,” a comedy about the CIA hiring two dumb American journalists to kill the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. A few weeks before the movie’s release, Sony’s computer systems were hacked by a group that calls itself the “Guardians of Peace.” The hackers released movies and emails it stole from Sony, and they threatened that if Sony released “The Interview” great harm would come to American movie goers and to Sony. Initially, Sony declared they would not release the movie, but then it eventually did. The Obama administration believes the government of North Korea is responsible for hacking Sony’s files and is using economic and travel sanctions to punish North Korea.
1. What does the Obama administration believe North Korea did to Sony Picture’s Entertainment?
2. Who controlled Korea during World War II?
3. What happened in North Korea and South Korea from 1945-1949?
4. Who won the Korean War (1950-1953)?
5. What is a totalitarian country?