America and Korea: Why is there Tension?

by Jack Conner

On September 14, 2017, a missile capable of wreaking nuclear havoc flew over Japan, landing off its coast in the Pacific Ocean. This missile may have seemed like a direct attack on Japan, but was in fact, just a test of the Hwasong-15 Missile made by North Korea. However, the threat is real. Within the past two years, North Korea has advanced exponentially in terms of nuclear capability, going from an underdeveloped country with little modern technology to a nuclear superpower with the capability to destroy any major US city.  

 

Additionally, North Korea has become one of the United States’ most prominent adversaries in recent years and has been the subject of numerous sanctions by the US and its allies. So how did these tensions start? Why is the North a dictatorship, while the South is a democracy? The answer can be traced to the mid-to late 1900s, during the Cold War, when a period of tension between the US and the USSR, occured. A part of the Cold War and what is widely believed to be the start of the Cold War, was the Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953. After WWII, the Korean Peninsula was freed from a harsh Japanese rule and attempted to establish a self-governing nation. However, due to its proximity to the USSR and other communist nations, it became clear that a single Korean nation would not be possible. As a result, Korea was split along the 38th parallel, with the South being a democratic, US-backed country and the North becoming a Communist-backed autocratic regime.

 

Tensions between the two eventually led to an attempted takeover by North Korea, resulting in the loss of three million Korean lives, 58,000 US Soldiers’ lives, one million Chinese lives, and 1,000 British soldiers’ lives. The war ended in a stalemate, with the only difference being extremely dangerous border protections and constant monitoring of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). After the war, most North Koreans developed a hatred towards the US, and rightfully so.  During the war, the US used inhumane amounts of napalm and other chemicals to help the South Koreans win, killing millions of Korean civilians in the process. As the Cold War ended, the USSR and other communist nations fell apart, and the Korean Peninsula remained divided and it seems like it will continue to be divided for a long time.

 

Yet recently, it seems that the peninsula seems to be slowly repairing the tears left from the Cold War. While the North is still completely isolated and its civilians seem to live under a regime of terror, the country does seem to be making slight progress to a more humane form of government. This slow process is the result of the US and many of its allies attempting to talk with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, and persuade him into denuclearization. With these negotiations, people are hoping for a safer world, where we can all live together in peace. While this seems to be the direction we are going in, the threat of nuclear war is still there and until all  nuclear weapons are gone, we will remain in a state of existential danger.

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