With Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War in August 1945 four decades of Japanese colonial rule ended and U.S. and Soviet troops came to be stationed on the Korean Peninsula to both the south and north of the 38th parallel respectively. This resulted in the division of Korea into two separate countries.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea attacked the South on all fronts, igniting a three-year internecine war. The tragic war was stopped with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953. The peninsula has remained divided ever since, but a mood for peace has recently developed after years of tension.
Inter-Korean Exchanges and Cooperation
Between September 1990 and October 1992, the two Koreas engaged in a total of eight bilateral meetings, including the first High-Level Talks held in Seoul. In December 1991, the two sides signed the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the North (also called the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement). The agreement was focused on mutual respect between the two nations, the renunciation of armed aggression, exchange and cooperation in many sectors, and the guarantee of free exchange of people between the two countries.
From the mid-1990s onward, the South’s government continued to provide support to the North, which was continuing to experience serious economic difficulties.
In the period 1999-2007, the South supplied a total of 2.55 million tons of fertilizers to the North in an effort to help the North Korean people who were suffering from a food shortage caused by the inefficiency of the North’s farming system and a lack of fertilizers and chemicals.
Such assistance was later suspended due to North Korea’s nuclear tests and other provocations, but humanitarian aid through private organizations was resumed in 2015.
The Inter-Korean Summits held in 2000 and 2007 provided the momentum for a dramatic invigoration of dialogue, exchange, and cooperation between the two sides. However, the South temporarily suspended the supply of food and fertilizers after the North’s continuing series of provocative actions culminated in the launch of long-range missiles and nuclear tests, but did not stop providing humanitarian support for children or emergency relief aid.
The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea has led to some instability in the relations between neighboring powers (United States, China, Japan, and Russia). However, the Moon Jae-in administration has made aggressive efforts toward peace. In September 2017, the Moon government deliberated and approved a plan to send a humanitarian aid worth USD 8 million to North Korea at the request of an international organization under the United Nations. The South Korean government also invited North Korea to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which it accepted. Such a reconciliatory mood led to the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, paving the way for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Efforts for Lasting Peace
The government of the South has made efforts for a permanent settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula and the development of good relations with the North through dialogues and exchange and cooperation. It has stuck to its basic stance, i.e. it will continue to strive to improve its relations with the North through dialogue and cooperation even during periods of extreme tension such as that occasioned by the North’s temporary closure of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex. Generally speaking, the government of the South and the South Korean people have succeeded in maintaining a calm and stable social atmosphere. The South copes flexibly with all outbreaks of tension on the Korean Peninsula by continuing dialogue and cooperation to maintain peace with neighboring countries. As such, South Korea may be claimed to be one of the safest countries in the world.
The Moon Jae-in administration, which was inaugurated in May 2017, has strived to improve inter-Korean relations, settle peace on the Korean Peninsula, and lay the groundwork for future unification by building mutual trust based on dialog and cooperation. In particular, the Panmunjeom Declaration signed on April 27, 2018, which reaffirmed the goal of completely denuclearizing the peninsula and building a peace regime, has been supported by related countries and the international community.
The government of the Republic of Korea, together with North Korea, will continue to accelerate the joint development of the two Koreas and to solidify the foundation of peaceful reunification.
To this end, South Korea and North Korea are discussing current issues through regular talks and a direct communication line to build trust with the ultimate aim that a unified Korea will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world.
Source: Korean Culture and Information Service 'Facts about Korea'
Image source: Korea Open Government License