Just English Magazine Articles

The Tale of Two Koreas


To the world, North Korea is about the nuclear crisis and South Korea is usually about popular culture and mobile phones. This is partly due to pro-democracy newspapers and the media being biased and wanting to make news. But it is true that Korea is split into two. One Korea is feared while the other is adored.

Korea has been a battleground for contending countries and ideologies. It began with Russia and Japan battling for control of the nation in 1904.

Japan finally won Korea over in 1910, and placed a puppet leader known as Emperor Sunjong. He is considered the last ‘united’ Korean leader and final emperor of the Korean dynasty which was 500 years old.

When the emperor died in 1926, the Japanese had full control and attempted to completely erase Korea’s own cultural identity. Orders from Tokyo had the customs as well as the language of the Korean people suppressed. Japan even enforced a law that made the second name of a Korean be replaced with a Japanese name. This, plus other laws, left a very bad feeling of enmity by the Koreans towards the Japanese.

After the surrender of the Japanese empire at the end of World War II, Korea became a victim of the Cold War. It was divided by two types of ideological influences, at the 38th parallel, the popular name given to the latitude 38 degrees north of the Earth’s equatorial plane which roughly demarcates North Korea and South Korea.

It was actually a line that the U.S military planners chose in July 1945. It was the boundary where Japanese would surrender: in the north to the Soviet Union, and in the south where they surrendered to the Americans.

Both Washington and Moscow came to an agreement for an arbitrary line to be drawn in the middle. The North became The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea adopting the communist ideology of the Soviets who made a young war hero named Kim Il-Sung its first prime minister.

As for the South, it became a democracy styled after America, and named itself the Republic of Korea. Just five years after, in 1950, Kim Il-Sung with the North Korean army, backed by communist China and Russia, invaded the South by launching a surprise attack across the 38th parallel and took over a large portion of the South. For several months it controlled almost the entire peninsula.

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contending – opposing, fighting, competing
puppet leader – a leader controlled by an outside force
enmity – an unfriendly relationship
demarcate – set the boundaries or limits of
arbitrary – done without good reasoning
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