History of North Korea
North Korea has had a turbulent history since its founding in the third millennium BCE. During the second century BCE, the Chinese Han Dynasty attacked the primitive kingdom of General Wiman and established colonies that survived for many years, spreading Chinese influence throughout Korea. The native Koreans resented Chinese rule, eventually destroying all of the Chinese colonies, after which the country was divided into three kingdoms, which united in 668 CE. Much later, during the late nineteenth century, Japan sent troops to southern Korea, to protect its financial interests in the country, while Russia attempted to exert control over the northern portion of the country, with which it shared a border. After the Russo-Japanese War of 1904, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt brokered a treaty that officially established Korea as a Japanese colony.
For thirty-six years, Japan ruled Korea, establishing the capital in Seoul, in the southern half of the country. Following Japan's defeat and disarmament at the end of World War II, Korea was liberated in August 1945. Rather than becoming completely autonomous, however, the country was divided into two parts along the 38th parallel. The northern half was occupied and ruled by Soviet troops, while the southern half was occupied by American troops. Kim Il-sung became the premier of the newly-formed Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and soon organized an invasion of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), taking advantage of weaponry provided by the Soviets. The United States' forces responded, along with fifteen other countries, under the auspices of the United Nations. North Korea, in turn, employed the aid of communist China.
The Korean War officially lasted for three years, from June 1950 until July 1953, functionally ending when the two sides signed a truce in the village of Panmujom, although technically the two countries are still at war. Since then, North Korea has been trying to force U.S. troops out of South Korea, where they have remained since the end of the Korean War.
Kim Il-sung remained president of the country until his death in 1994, by then having already named his son, Kim Jong-il, as his successor; Kim Jong-il took power in September 1999. During Kim Il-sung's rule, he attempted to establish plans for improving North Korea's economy. None of the plans were effective, however, and the country fell into famine and economic distress following his death in 1994. Since Kim Il-sung's death, there has been no official communication between North and South Korea.
Kim Jong-il has maintained his father's Juche philosophy, which aims to strengthen North Korea's ideological initiatives, and thus to improve morale and worker efficiency. According to Kim Jong-il, molding Koreans' ideology to a productive, communist mindset is the most important policy to enact.
Throughout the Cold War, North Korea attempted to gain support and allies for its plan to unite the Koreas under communist rule. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, North Korea has been subject to severe UN sanctions. The country did make a deal with the United States in 1994 to cease production of nuclear weapons, in exchange for materials for nuclear power plants and fuel oil from the U.S.
Relations between the U.S. and North Korea improved for several years, to the point that Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited with Kim Jong-il in 2000. Since then, relations have again deteriorated, particularly after Kim Jong-il's 2002 announcement that, despite his promise, North Korea had maintained its nuclear weapons program. The following year, the United States created the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), with the objective of intercepting weapons being transported to and from North Korea. The United Nations also began six-party talks in 2003, bringing together representatives from the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Russia, and Japan to discuss the tense situation in North Korea.