Friday, May 05, 2017

North Korea (1) Past affects the Present

The history of Korea is not well understood, but the present situation is largely the result of the past.

  • Korea is an ancient culture that achieved national unity in 608 AD. Despite living in the shadow of China, it has retained its unique language and traditions since then.

  • National independence ended in 1910 after Japan invaded and occupied the country. The Korean emperor handed sovereignty over his the Japanese emperor “completely and forever.” The United States and the United Kingdom were worried about the expansion of Russia, so they did not resist the Japanese expansion.

  • Korea was controlled by Japan for four decades. The Japanese used collaborators among the Korean elite to manage their first colony. They used enforced labor to build industries to support the Japanese economy. Many Koreans resisted Japanese control, but were severely persecuted.

  • In 1907-1910, a powerful revival occurred in Korea. It started in Pyongyang, which is not the capital of North Korea. After months of persistent prayer, 50,000 people came to Jesus in one year and the entire country was set ablaze. By 1948, more than a fifth of the population of Korea was Christian. Only about 400,000 Christians are thought to remain in North Korea today.

  • Korea was divided by an agreement between Stalin and Roosevelt towards the end of World War 2. They agreed the boundary should be the 38th parallel. They were supposed to be setting Korea free from Japanese control, but the people of Korea had no say in their decisions. Their country was divided by a dispute they had no interest in, and they had no choice about which side they would end up on.

  • Elections to unite the country were supposed to be held but neither of the great powers were interested in uniting the country. Instead, they each appointed a leader over the part they country they controlled.

  • The United States put Syngman Rhee in control over the south. He had lived most of his life in the United States, so he was loyal, but he turned out to be a rather nasty ruler. He recruited his security forces from people who had collaborated with the Japanese. Thousands of people who opposed him were arrested and killed. Protests before the 1988 Olympics in Seoul restored civil liberties and direct presidential elections in South Korea.

  • The Russians appointed Kim Il-sung. He had led guerrilla warfare against the Japanese, so he had a bit more credibility with the people.

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