Tension rocks the Korean Peninsula


The history of North and South Korea may be short, but that does not mean it is one of peace and tranquility. Since splitting into two separate nations in 1945, tensions have only risen between the countries as they fight for control and power in East Asia.
The Korean War resulted in many casualties and much devastation throughout Korea, but the only physical reminder of the conflict left today is the demilitarized zone located at the 38th parallel. However, though there are few material reminders left to today’s population, the experiences of those who fought in the war will be forever engraved in their mind.
“Whenever I ask my grandfather about the Korean War, he doesn’t want to talk about it,” said sophomore Daniel Park. “He just puts on a thoughtful look and thinks to himself.”
The tensions built during the war also still remain. While at the time of the war they were mainly fueled by pro and anti-communist feelings, today they are largely due to the economic differences between North and South Korea.
Although it seemed to flourish at the time of the Korean War, North Korea is currently in a poor economic state. South Korea, on the other hand, is rapidly becoming one of the richest countries in the world today.
“Since they’re living in poverty, the South Koreans are trying to help the North Korean people,” said freshman Joon Lee. “Some people help them cross the border and escape to America and others donate money and provisions.”
Another cause of apprehension is South Korea’s standing concern about North Korea’s nuclear weapons. The North Korean government has constantly been changing its mind about returning to demilitarization talks with the U.S. and South Korea. It is currently expected to resume discussions in April, but that could very well change by the time the latest talks are scheduled to commence.
“The tensions aren’t so much between the people as they are between the governments,” said Lee. “The dictator is really bad; he spends money to build nuclear weapons but not to help his people.”
Kim Jong-Il, the dictator of North Korea’s government, is believed to have enough plutonium for at least a half-dozen nuclear bombs, yet BBC News reports that since the mid-1990s two million people have died from the frequent food shortages.
The question remains as to how this problem will be solved. North Korea is still isolated and the threat of nuclear weapons prevents outside aid from reaching the country. Meanwhile, its citizens are unable to leave and are very much oppressed by Kim Jong-Il and his dictatorship.
Just over 60 years ago, the USSR took control of the northern half of Korea and turned it into a communist nation. Meanwhile, the U.S. sent troops to South Korea to prevent a communist government from being established.
At first there was little conflict between the two, but in 1950 North Korean troops invaded the South, sparking the Korean War. In response, the United Nations formed a force of mostly U.S. soldiers to fight the northern army. As the war raged on, each side fought to push the other back into its own territory. Three years later, when no side emerged victorious, a cease-fire was agreed upon to end the conflict.
“Although the older generation believes that the North and South can be reunited, the younger generation believes they should remain separate,” said sophomore William An. “South Korea has attained world recognition and they don’t want to lose that by reuniting with North Korea.”
This further heightens tensions between North and South Korea. The South is unwilling to give up its newfound freedom and prosperity to conform to the strict rules of the North and Kim Jong-Il would rather remain isolated than relinquish his power and nuclear weapons. Only time will tell if North Korea, South Korea, and the rest of the global community will be able to come to an agreement at the nuclear talks in April to ease the lasting tensions.