Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
▪ 2009

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 23,867,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

      In 2008 North Korea lived up to the traditional nickname for the Korean peninsula, “the Hermit Kingdom,” by dragging its feet in nuclear talks and imposing a news blackout surrounding the health of its reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il. Meanwhile, relations with South Korea entered a deep freeze, and ties with the United States warmed slightly. The country's food situation remained precarious.

      The ongoing international negotiations to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons and related programs made halting progress. Though no breakthrough occurred, in October the U.S. removed North Korea from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. The most promising development came in June when the North blew up the cooling tower used at its main nuclear facility, one day after Pyongyang had made a long-awaited declaration of its nuclear assets. The document, however, made no mention of the country's nuclear arsenal, its suspected uranium-enrichment program, or the growing evidence of nuclear-related transfers to Syria. During December negotiations the parties failed to agree on a verification protocol.

      One possible threat to denuclearization efforts was the questionable health of Kim Jong Il. Kim disappeared from public view in August and failed to attend an event marking the founding of his father's regime 60 years earlier. It was rumoured that Kim had suffered a stroke but had at least partially recovered. Unverified photographs released throughout the autumn purported to show Kim at factories, sporting events, and military bases. The 67-year-old Kim's illness underscored the fact that he had yet to name a successor.

      Despite a decade of engagement between the countries, relations between North and South Korea deteriorated after conservative Lee Myung-bak became the South Korean president in February. Public tours of North Korea, one of the pillars of North-South cooperation, were suspended indefinitely after a North Korean soldier shot and killed a tourist from South Korea who had wandered into a restricted zone. Another cooperative venture, the industrial complex at Kaesong, was also threatened by the incident. In contrast, some musical diplomacy took place in February when the New York Philharmonic gave a performance that was broadcast throughout the country.

      Life for the average North Korean remained difficult. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that a third of the North Korean population would experience hunger in 2009 unless there was a new wave of humanitarian assistance. Heartbreaking stories appeared in the media on the horrific conditions inside North Korea's gulags. Defections to China and South Korea continued.

Peter M. Beck

▪ 2008

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 23,790,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

      Amid renewed flooding, chronic hunger, and succession rumours, North Korea showed signs in 2007 that it might be willing to give up its nuclear programs if the price was right. After six years of stalemate, Washington finally began an earnest dialogue with Pyongyang. The first breakthrough in nuclear talks came in February when North Korea agreed to shut down its decrepit light-water nuclear reactor in exchange for a modest package of economic assistance. A second breakthrough came in October when the North agreed to disable the reactor and submit a list of all remaining nuclear programs. As if to remind the world just how arduous denuclearization would be, North Korea failed to meet the December 31 deadline.

      Many difficult months of nuclear negotiations remained, and it was unclear if the North was really serious about denuclearizing. Even if Pyongyang declared all of its weapons-grade nuclear material, North Korean negotiators had already hinted that they might not reveal how many weapons the North had. Pyongyang had also refused to admit to having a uranium-enrichment program, and there was growing suspicion that the North may have secretly sent nuclear materials to Syria. North Korea might also insist on receiving less-proliferation-prone nuclear facilities as part of its economic-assistance wish list—something that the administration of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush had insisted would be a nonstarter.

      Meanwhile, North Korea suffered its second straight year of flooding. According to the Red Cross, 600 people were killed or were missing, and more than 170,000 were left homeless after torrential rains in August. More than 10% of North Korea's already-meager arable land was believed to have been destroyed. Even under the best conditions, the country could grow only enough food to feed two-thirds of its people, and international assistance made up only part of the shortfall. More than a million North Koreans were believed to be chronically hungry.

      Succession rumours swirled with the reappearance in June of Kim Jong Il's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, who paid his first visit to North Korea since his arrest in Japan in 2001, when he was caught using a fake Dominican passport while trying to visit Tokyo Disneyland; he was subsequently exiled to southern China. Most analysts, however, still believed that Kim Jong Il's most-likely successor was his brother-in-law, 61-year-old Jang Song Thaek, who was placed in charge of internal security in November.

Peter M. Beck

▪ 2007

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 22,583,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

 In 2006 North Korea captured the world's attention with a series of missile tests on July 5 and a nuclear test on October 9. While condemnation was nearly universal—with the unanimous passage of two UN Security Council resolutions (1695 and 1718, respectively) within days of each provocative act—the tests underscored the fact that the world had failed to stop one of the most oppressive and unpredictable regimes from joining the club of nuclear powers. The nuclear test not only seriously undermined the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, but it also called into question the viability of the multilateral nuclear talks designed to halt North Korea's nuclear ambitions. In the meantime, economic conditions in the country were worsening, yet the regime appeared to be as stable as ever.

 Neither North Korea's missile nor nuclear tests were particularly impressive. The one long-range missile launched exploded within seconds, and the nuclear test was deemed by most scientists to be a “fizzle,” but the two acts demonstrated that North Korea posed the single-greatest threat to peace in the Asia-Pacific region. (See Map—>.) The six-party nuclear talks involving North Korea, the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia (the latter three were little more than observers) reconvened from December 18 to 22 after a 13-month hiatus. The talks failed to make any progress, however, owing to North Korea's insistence that a financial crackdown imposed by the U.S. in September 2005 be lifted before it would even begin negotiations. The six parties could not even agree on a date to resume the talks. Given that Washington finally began to show the kind of flexibility that would be needed to make progress by meeting with North Korea bilaterally and addressing its concerns, North Korea's inflexibility raised fears that Pyongyang was not interested in a deal under any conditions.

      North Korea's provocative acts, coupled with floods in July and a series of failed economic policies, virtually ensured that the North Korean people would experience greater isolation, hardship, and possibly famine. The UN World Food Programme announced in late December that it was able to feed only 700,000 of the 1,900,000 North Koreans it had identified as needing food aid. An estimated 100,000 North Koreans were believed to be hiding in China, and a record 2,000 reached South Korea in 2006.

Peter M. Beck

▪ 2006

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 22,488,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

      North Korea ended 2005 with a tenuous agreement, forged in September, to end its nuclear-weapons program. It had spent much of the year in negotiations in Beijing, where meetings were held involving six countries—North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Though the talks were dominated by North Korea and the United States, South Korea and China played positive roles in the process.

       South Korea announced in July and reaffirmed in September that it would provide electrical energy to North Korea. It was hoped that this provision might lessen demands by North Korea that South Korea, the United States, and Japan pay for building a new nuclear-generating light-water reactor to replace the heavy-water reactors that had been at the centre of the controversy for several years. Heavy-water reactors could easily produce radioactive material that could be used in making nuclear weapons.

      The greatest breakthrough in the difficult nuclear disarmament talks came when on September 19 North Korea announced that it would abandon its nuclear-weapons program. Within days of the announcement, however, Pyongyang stated that prior to relinquishing its program, it wanted the civilian light-water reactor to be built. When the six-party talks resumed in November, at the top of the agenda was the clarification of the July agreement. Although progress was made, the finer points of agreement and implementation would continue to take time and further negotiations.

      Progress between North Korea and South Korea, however, was substantial. Exchanges of visitors increased at all levels. Government delegations at the ministerial level made visits to each other's capitals; sporting events took place (marathons for unification in which runners from both Seoul and Pyongyang participated); and reunions were held in August and November that brought together family members who had been separated. In addition, the special tourist zone in the Diamond Mountains, just north of the border between the two countries, celebrated the arrival of its one millionth visitor from South Korea. In November the two countries agreed in principle to have their athletes compete as a unified team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

      Periodically, refugees who had fled North Korea and hidden in China would make their way to safety in South Korea. There were an estimated 200,000 North Korean escapees hiding in China.

Mark Peterson

▪ 2005

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 22,698,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

      The dominant issue in North Korea in 2004 was the development of nuclear weapons and negotiations to abandon that program. Six-party talks were held in February in Beijing, where the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan, and Russia met to find a negotiated end to the confrontation over nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. The February talks were the second round; the first round had been held in August 2003. The third round was held in June 2004, and the fourth round planned for October was postponed and not rescheduled. It appeared that North Korea had decided to wait for the outcome of the U.S. presidential election before meeting again. With the reelection of Pres. George W. Bush, the United States sent the message that there would be no changes in the U.S. position regarding the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program.

      In April North Korean leader Kim Jong Il made a trip to China. Though the trip was dubbed “unofficial,” Kim met with the top leadership of China in talks over North Korea's nuclear-weapons program. On April 21, within hours after Kim's special presidential train had passed through the border town of Ryongchon, the train station there was rocked by a huge explosion after two fuel trains collided. At least 161 people were killed, thousands were injured, 1,850 homes were destroyed, and another 6,350 were damaged. Though speculation grew that the explosion was an attempt on Kim's life, other explanations were offered, including the idea that the blast was an accident or a coincidence.

      Relations with Japan improved with the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He was able to take back to Japan with him children of Japanese citizens who had been kidnapped in the 1970s and '80s. North Korea had admitted having abducted Japanese citizens to teach Japanese in North Korea and had allowed the abductees to return home 19 months earlier.

      Near year's end it was reported that many of the publicly displayed portraits of Kim Jong Il had begun to disappear. Many wondered whether Kim had ordered the action to dispel the cult of personality that surrounded him; the “Dear Leader” honorific title was also dropped by state-run media.

Mark Peterson

▪ 2004

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 22,466,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Head of state and government:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

      North Korea began the year 2003 with a confrontation with the United States over the development of nuclear weapons. North Korea charged that the U.S. had not fulfilled its part of the 1994 agreements to supply aid in exchange for cessation of its nuclear weapons development program. North Korea had changed its position. Rather than continuing adherence to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, North Korea announced that it was pulling out and would proceed to develop nuclear weapons. Talks between North and South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan were held in Beijing in August but ended without agreement. Disputes over what compensation could be offered if North Korea did not develop nuclear arms caused postponement of the multilateral talks past the end of the year.

      In February, North Korea tested an antiship missile by firing it into the East Sea (Sea of Japan). The timing was significant; it happened on the day before South Korea inaugurated its new president, Roh Moo Hyun. The 53rd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War was commemorated in June with an anti-American demonstration in the streets of Pyongyang reportedly attended by over one million people. Even so, relations with South Korea were not universally bad. Several high-level meetings took place between officials of the two countries at which agreement was reached to develop a combined economic development zone in Kaesong, just across the demilitarized zone from South Korea. The year also saw more reunions of separated families, exchanges of letters, and sports competitions between the two rival countries.

      The North Korean economy improved at a modest rate, but help was still needed from the international community to provide the population with food and grains. Exports picked up, and for the first time in the history of the two countries, North Korea's exports to South Korea surpassed those to its longtime ally, China. Russia was quick to take advantage of the situation when North Korea's trade opportunities with many states were effectively closed off by the U.S. and Japan.

Mark Peterson

▪ 2003

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 22,224,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Chief of state:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il
Head of government:
Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier) Hong Sang Nam

      North Korea in the year 2002 saw its domestic economy improve slightly, while on the international scene its standing rose and fell sharply in a series of dramatic events in relations with South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.

      For several years the highly secretive state had had a severe problem producing enough food for its people. In 2002 the economy grew at a rate reported to be about 3.7%, but another disastrous season of floods in August ruined crops and threatened continued food shortages. The floods also killed several dozen people. The regime had relied on external food aid provided by South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, but Japan halted its donations after a diplomatic breakdown. Early in the year North Korea announced reforms of the economy that would permit some market transactions, and by the end of the year, it had been announced that an economic free zone, where capitalist enterprises would be welcome, would open in Kaesong, near the South Korean border.

      Relations with Japan took a dramatic turn in September when, on the heels of a historic visit to Pyongyang by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, North Korea admitted that it had abducted as many as 13 Japanese during the 1970s and '80s. The abductions were apparently for the purpose of stealing identities for espionage purposes in some cases and for obtaining Japanese-language instructors in others. In admitting the crime, chief of state Kim Jung Il said that misguided elements within the government had carried out the scheme and that they would be punished.

      North Korea's relations with China were dominated by the issue of Korean refugees' asylum in foreign embassies in Beijing and eventually passage to South Korea. In March, 25 North Koreans who had slipped into China stormed into the Spanish embassy, while smaller groups rushed into other embassies in Beijing. Relations with South Korea were marred when on June 29 a naval firefight broke out on the Yellow Sea. A North Korean ship fired first, leaving four South Korean sailors dead; 13 North Koreans were killed when South Korean forces returned fire. The incident was quickly defused, however, after North Korea issued a statement of regret and South Korea accepted the statement as an apology.

      North Korea vigorously protested U.S. Pres. George W. Bush's characterization of the regime as part of an “axis of evil,” along with Iran and Iraq, and announced that planned talks with the U.S. would be called off until the criticism was withdrawn. This was followed later in the year by a threat to deal the U.S. “merciless blows” should armed forces ever land in North Korea. Nonetheless, an American delegation visited Pyongyang in October. Any hopes of improved relations between the two countries were dashed when North Korea admitted that it was still attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Some analysts believed that the cash-strapped country was placing nuclear weapons on the bargaining table in hopes of getting economic aid in exchange for abandoning the project.

Mark Peterson

▪ 2002

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 21,968,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Chief of state:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il
Head of government:
Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier) Hong Sang Nam

      Reclusive North Korean chief of state Kim Jong Il made several state visits to other countries in the year 2001. In January Kim visited Shanghai, China's financial capital, touring several companies and holding economic discussions. In late July–early August he made a 10-day trip to Russia, meeting with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin. North Korea had been dismayed at the growing economic cooperation between Russia and South Korea; on the military front the two leaders spoke of limitations on North Korean missile testing. Kim pledged to continue a moratorium on missile testing until at least the year 2003. Western nations hoped that Putin would be able to persuade North Korea to become more open and more willing to contact Western countries directly.

      Relations between North Korea and the U.S. had been developing through negotiations during the final years of Bill Clinton's administration, but all negotiations were put on hold after George W. Bush took office. The new Bush administration initially announced that it was going to review the relationship before proceeding. Secretary of State Colin Powell later called for resumed talks, but North Korea demanded to set the agenda before any meetings took place.

      North Korea continued to struggle with a failing economy and agriculture shortfalls domestically. In mid-May at a UNICEF conference in Beijing, remarkable statistics revealing conditions inside North Korea were reported by Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon. The report indicated that life expectancy had fallen from 73.2 years in 1993 to 66.8 by 1999. Mortality rates for children under five rose during those years from 27 to 48 per 1,000. Infant mortality rose from 14 to 22.5 per 1,000 births. Per capita gross national product dropped from $991 per year to $457. The percentage of children getting vaccinations for diseases such as polio and measles fell from 90% to 50% between 1990 and 1997. The percentage of the population with access to safe water fell from 86% to just 53% between 1994 and 1996. The report at the UNICEF conference confirmed some of the worst fears the outside world had had of the situation inside the closed and secretive country.

Mark Peterson

▪ 2001

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 21,688,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Chief of state:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il
Head of government:
Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier) Hong Sang Nam

      In the year 2000 images that once seemed inconceivable superseded each other one after another on the Korean peninsula. The most arresting was the scene at Pyongyang's airport on June 13 when South Korean Pres. Kim Dae Jung (see Nobel Prizes ) stepped onto the tarmac and grasped the hand of the North Korean chief of state, Kim Jong Il, who then led President Kim before an honour guard and accompanied him in a limousine for the journey to the state guest house. It was the first time that a South Korean president had visited North Korea and the first time that the reclusive Kim Jong Il had gone to the airport to greet a visitor.

      An unprecedented summit meeting followed, after which change continued at a breakneck pace. In August 100 North Koreans traveled to Seoul for a reunion with long-lost family members, while 100 South Koreans arrived in Pyongyang. For many in both delegations, it was the first time in 50 years—since the Korean War divided their peninsula into two hostile nations—that they had seen relatives who were on the other side of the border. In September 63 North Koreans who had been held in South Korean prisons as spies and political prisoners, some for more than 40 years, were allowed to return to their homeland. Also in September the North and South Korean Olympic teams joined together during the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. The athletes marched into the stadium under a single flag showing a map of Korea, although they competed as separate teams.

      On October 9 Kim Jong Il's second in command, Vice Marshall Jo Myong Rok, arrived in Washington, D.C. While at the White House the following day, Jo wore his full-dress army uniform—an action that many observers interpreted as a sign that the diplomatic meeting had the full support of North Korea's military. Later in the month U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang, where she met with Kim and accompanied him to a lavish celebration at a sports stadium that featured some 100,000 performers. These high-profile visits were set against the backdrop of a major diplomatic offensive; North Korea reestablished relations with Western nations Italy and Australia and opened a consulate in Hong Kong. Some observers predicted that, if the trend continued, North Korea would eventually normalize relations with Japan and the U.S. and that reunification with South Korea was a possibility.

      North Korea's economy continued to sputter along. Grain production was projected to decline about 23% from the previous year. The drop meant that the North would continue to be dependent upon international assistance, despite signs that the worst of the country's famine was over.

Todd Crowell

▪ 2000

Area:
122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 21,386,000
Capital:
Pyongyang
Chief of state:
Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il
Head of government:
Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier) Hong Sang Nam

      A major diplomatic breakthrough occurred in September 1999 when U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton eased economic sanctions imposed on North Korea since the end of the 1950–53 Korean War. In return, North Korea agreed not to test-fire an advanced version of the long-range ballistic missile. It had launched the Taepodong 1 over Japanese airspace in August 1998, greatly angering its powerful neighbour. Throughout much of 1999 the threat of a launch of a Taepodong 2 with the purported range sufficient to reach parts of Alaska and Hawaii had roiled relations in northeastern Asia.

      The easing of sanctions was the culmination of a yearlong review by President Clinton's special coordinator for North Korean affairs, former defense secretary William Perry. He submitted a report on September 14 proposing that the U.S. eventually normalize relations with North Korea. Despite progress on the diplomatic front, Pyongyang continued to make provocations during the year. The most serious occurred on June 15 after North Korean fishing vessels, accompanied by patrol and torpedo boats, began crossing the “limit line” that forms the unofficial maritime boundary between North and South Korea. When Southern frigates attempted to direct the vessels back over the line, both sides exchanged fire. Seoul reported that seven of its sailors were wounded, and one North Korean torpedo boat was reported sunk. The Northern vessels retreated behind the line after the brief confrontation was over.

      South Korea's central bank reported during the year that the North's economy had contracted 1.1% in 1998, considerably smaller than the 6.8% contraction recorded during 1997. The North's economy had begun shrinking after the country lost its major trading partners with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism in Europe. North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun said that some 6,000 factories had resumed operations after being shut down for years. The UN World Food Programme estimated in June that the North's grain harvest would increase in 1999. Figures published in the British medical journal The Lancet suggested that anywhere from 100,000 to 3,000,000 North Koreans had died of starvation since 1995, when famine first struck the country.

Todd Crowell

▪ 1999

      Area: 122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 21,234,000

      Capital: Pyongyang

      Chief of state: Chairman of the National Defense Commission Kim Jong Il

      Head of government: Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Premier) Hong Sang Nam

      In September 1998, exactly 50 years after Kim Il Sung founded the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, his son Kim Jong Il formally assumed the nation's highest post, completing a transition that had begun with the elder Kim's death in July 1994. Kim Jong Il did not become president, however. That position was written out of North Korea's constitution by the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), which reserved for Kim Il Sung the posthumous title of "eternal president." Instead, the younger Kim was reelected chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC), an office whose powers the SPA expanded to make it "the highest post of the state." Kim had assumed leadership of the ruling Korean Workers (Communist) Party in October 1997.

      The reelection of Kim as NDC chairman came hard on the heels of a major controversy in foreign affairs. On August 31 North Korea launched a two-stage rocket over Japan. The international reaction to North Korea's claim that the rocket was not meant to test a missile but rather to carry a satellite into orbit was deeply skeptical, since the North was known to have ballistic missiles under development and had admitted selling missiles to such countries as Syria, Iran, and Iraq. Protesting the rocket's path across its territory, Japan cut its food shipments to the North. Although the U.S. later conceded that the evidence suggested a satellite launch, it also pointed out that the rocket used solid-fuel technology, which indicated a major step forward in long-range-missile development for North Korea.

      The country's nuclear weapons program was supposed to have remained frozen as part of a deal negotiated with the U.S. in 1994, in which the North had agreed to halt its program in exchange for two civilian nuclear reactors and fuel oil. Photographs from U.S. spy satellites, however, purportedly showed work proceeding on an underground nuclear facility near Yongbyon. Reports of the facility persuaded the U.S. Congress to stop supplying fuel oil to North Korea. Pres. Bill Clinton, however, used his authority to divert $15 million from special funds in order to fulfill the U.S. commitment to the accord. North Korea steadfastly denied reports of the underground facility, calling them part of a smear campaign by the U.S. and South Korea. Pyongyang denied a U.S. delegation access to the Yongbyon facility in mid-November, and by December there was fear that the entire agreement might be breaking down.

      During 1998 North Korea's economy continued to stagnate. Numerous international relief agencies testified to continuing widespread hunger. Médecins sans Frontières, the largest humanitarian relief organization working in North Korea, pulled out of the country in late September after the government would not allow the organization to monitor the distribution of food.

TODD CROWELL

▪ 1998

      Area: 122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 24,317,000

      Capital: Pyongyang

      Chief of state: President Kim Jong Il (designated)

      Head of government: Chairmen of the Council of Ministers (Premier) Kang Song San and, from February 21 (acting Premier), Hong Sang Nam.

      On March 5, 1997, representatives from North Korea attended a meeting in New York City with U.S. and South Korean diplomats to discuss proposed peace negotiations aimed at formally ending the state of war on the Korean peninsula. The meeting marked the first official contact between North and South Korea in three years and paved the way for joint talks with South Korea, the U.S., and China in Geneva in December. Although no solid agreements were reached, the meetings represented a significant step forward in the process of determining a security arrangement to replace the armistice that had put an unofficial end to the 1950-53 Korean War. The negotiations were, however, expected to be lengthy and difficult.

      Some observers viewed North Korea's increased willingness to participate in peace talks as a sign of its desire to enhance its diplomatic standing and to receive food aid to help feed a population devastated by famine. According to the UN World Food Programme, most North Koreans had come to depend on government rations, which were cut to 100-150 g (3.5-5.3 oz) per person per day in 1997. UNICEF estimated that 80,000 children were in immediate danger of dying and another 800,000 were suffering from malnutrition. On May 26 South Korea agreed to send 50,000 tons of food to the North by August. The U.S. also provided North Korea with about $50 million in surplus grain during the year.

      In August North Korea and Japan reopened bilateral negotiations that had been suspended for five years. A central issue was that of allowing Japanese women who had married North Korean men in the late 1950s to visit their families in Japan; more than 1,800 Japanese women went to North Korea during those years and were never heard from again. Tokyo had refused to send food aid to the beleaguered North in anger over this and over reports that North Korean agents had kidnapped Japanese citizens in the 1970s.

      Ground was broken in August on a barren section of North Korea's eastern seaboard for the construction of two nuclear power plants to be used for nonmilitary purposes. The power plants were part of a deal negotiated with the U.S. in October 1994, in which the North was provided two 1,000-MW light-water reactors and fuel oil in exchange for freezing its own nuclear development, which many suspected was aimed at obtaining material for nuclear weapons.

      Two prominent North Korean officials defected in 1997. In February Hwang Jang Yop, the architect of North Korea's official ideology of juche, or self-reliance, entered the South Korean consulate in Beijing and asked for asylum in South Korea. Hwang was sent first to the Philippines and then to Seoul, where he periodically issued warnings of Pyongyang's intentions to attack the South and perhaps Japan with missiles and nuclear weapons. In August North Korea's ambassador to Egypt, Chang Sung Gil, along with his brother and both of the men's families, defected at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Chang had reportedly been an important figure in North Korean missile sales to the Middle East, and he was considered by U.S. intelligence to be a valuable source of information.

      The third anniversary of the death of longtime dictator Kim Il Sung on July 8, 1994, passed without his son and successor Kim Jong Il formally taking the office of president. On October 8, however, Kim Jong Il officially assumed the leadership of the Korean Workers' (Communist) Party.

GEORGE T. CROWELL
      This article updates Korea, North, history of (Korea, North).

▪ 1997

      A socialist republic of northeastern Asia on the northern half of the peninsula of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) borders the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Republic of Korea at roughly the 38th parallel. Area: 122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 23,904,000. Cap.: Pyongyang. Monetary unit: won, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a transfer rate of 2.15 won to U.S. $1 (3.39 won = £ 1 sterling); a truer value of the won was on the black market where at the beginning of the year 45 won = U.S. $1 (70 won = £1 sterling). President in 1996, Kim Jong Il (designated); chairman of the Council of Ministers (premier), Kang Song San.

      The food shortages in North Korea that were evident in 1995 worsened in 1996. In some areas of the country they approached famine proportions, with frequent reports of peasants being reduced to eating bark off of trees. With no credit to buy food on the open market, North Korea was dependent on charity.

      Yet North Korea did not behave like a supplicant. Instead, the year was marked by some of the most bellicose provocations experienced on the Korean peninsula for years. In April several hundred North Korean soldiers entered the demilitarized zone and unloaded their mortars, recoilless rifles, and machine guns on their side of the joint security area—all in flagrant violation of the 43-year-old armistice agreement that forbids any but side arms in the DMZ. They repeated the demonstration during the following two days. The most likely explanation was that it represented an escalation of North Korea's campaign to dismantle the armistice machinery and replace it with a separate peace treaty with the parties to the 1950-53 Korean War.

      Then in September came another curious event. A small North Korean submarine ran aground off South Korea's northeastern coastline. It was reportedly carrying about two dozen commandos, most of whom were killed, either by their comrades or by South Korean troops during a massive manhunt. North Korea said that the sub had strayed off course because of engine trouble, but the South Korean Defense Ministry, relying on the interrogation of one captured commando, said that it had been on a reconnaissance mission. Late in December North Korea expressed "deep regret" for the episode.

      In April U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton met with South Korea's Pres. Kim Young Sam on the southern resort island of Cheju. A proposal was made that there be four-party talks between the belligerents of the Korean War—North and South Korea, China, and the U.S.—that would lead to the signing of a formal peace treaty. One purpose was to send a signal to North Korea that it should not expect to be able to hold out for separate talks with the U.S. In accepting the proposal, South Korea relaxed its insistence that any peace treaty be negotiated only between the two Koreas. The North neither agreed to nor rejected the proposal outright. (GEORGE T. CROWELL)

      This article updates Korea, North, history of (Korea, North).

▪ 1996

      A socialist republic of northeastern Asia on the northern half of the peninsula of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) borders the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Republic of Korea at roughly the 38th parallel. Area: 122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 23,487,000. Cap.: Pyongyang. Monetary unit: won, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 2.15 won to U.S. $1 (3.40 won = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Kim Jong Il (designated); chairman of the Council of Ministers (premier), Kang Song San.

      Severe flooding aggravated North Korea's food shortages in 1995. Heavy rains and a typhoon during the summer reportedly affected five million people, nearly a quarter of the population. The government made a rare appeal for foreign assistance, asking for food and clothing. A UN team visiting the North reported that 1.9 million tons of crops had been lost and that many irrigation systems had been damaged.

      Pyongyang had earlier asked for emergency food aid to cover a projected harvest shortfall. Japan contributed 300,000 tons of rice and South Korea 150,000 tons. For several years defectors and visitors had spoken of shortages, of official exhortations to eat only twice a day, and even of food riots. In December the UN World Food Programme warned of the possibility of widespread famine.

      In January the U.S. sent 50,000 tons of fuel oil to help generate electricity, part of a 1994 agreement to end an international dispute over North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang pledged to freeze all its projects, which involved operation of a five-megawatt nuclear plant and construction of two others. In exchange, the U.S. promised to arrange for North Korea to acquire two modern nuclear power reactors worth over $4 billion. Throughout the year the two sides haggled over details implementing the agreement, with the North periodically threatening to restart its nuclear program if concessions were not granted. The main sticking point seemed to be U.S. insistence that the reactors come from South Korea. An agreement calling for contributions from Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. was finally signed on December 15.

      During the year North Korea and the U.S. made cautious moves toward ending their long enmity. The U.S. lifted its trade embargo, and the first investment mission visited the country in February. As part of the October 1994 accord, the two sides agreed to move toward establishing some kind of informal relationship, probably in the form of liaison-level offices in each other's capital.

      Pyongyang had reportedly even dropped its opposition to the stationing of U.S. troops in South Korea. This was seen as part of a yearlong effort by North Korea to undo the Panmunjon peace arrangements and sign a formal peace treaty with the U.S. Washington insisted that Pyongyang first make peace with the south.

      The status of Kim Jong Il, son and successor of the late dictator Kim Il Sung, continued to cast a cloud over North Korean affairs. Several auspicious dates passed without the younger Kim's assuming the vacant titles of president and secretary-general of the Korean Workers' (communist) Party. He was seen in public only rarely. Most analysts, however, believed that Kim Jong Il was in charge and was slowly but carefully consolidating his power. In October he promoted army Chief of Staff Gen. Choe Gwang to defense minister. He replaced Marshal O Jin U, an influential Kim supporter who had died in February. Also in October, a 10.7-m (35-ft) granite monument of Kim Jong Il was unveiled in Pyongyang. (GEORGE T. CROWELL)

      This updates the article Korea, North, history of (Korea, North).

▪ 1995

      A socialist republic of northeastern Asia on the northern half of the peninsula of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) borders the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Republic of Korea at roughly the 38th parallel. Area: 122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 23,067,000. Cap.: Pyongyang. Monetary unit: won, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 2.15 won to U.S. $1 (3.42 won = £ 1 sterling). Presidents in 1994, Marshal Kim Il Sung and, from July 8, Kim Jong Il (designated); chairman of the Council of Ministers (premier), Kang Song San.

      On July 8, 1994, Kim Il Sung, North Korea's only leader since the Stalinist state was founded in 1948, died at the age of 82. (See OBITUARIES (Kim Il Sung ).) The following day Radio Pyongyang informed the world that Kim had succumbed to a heart attack. The funeral was delayed until July 19 to permit mourners to arrive in time for the ceremony.

      Kim's death came at a critical time. Pyongyang had been locked in a dispute with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which had been denied access to North Korea's experimental nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, 100 km (60 mi) north of Pyongyang. The IAEA suspected that North Korea was diverting plutonium to build nuclear weapons.

      After former U.S. president Jimmy Carter made a private visit to Pyongyang in mid-June, he announced that Kim Il Sung had pledged to temporarily freeze the country's nuclear program and allow IAEA inspectors to remain in the country. In return, the U.S. agreed to resume direct talks aimed at establishing formal ties. The two sides had begun negotiations in Geneva the day Kim Il Sung died. The talks were suspended, and the first face-to-face meeting between the presidents of North and South Korea, scheduled for late July, was indefinitely postponed. Meanwhile, Pyongyang was preoccupied with the transfer of power to Kim Il Sung's son Kim Jong Il. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Kim Jong Il ).)

      Kim Jong Il had been the officially designated heir apparent since 1980. In 1991 he was named commander of the armed forces, and he was said to be in charge of day-to-day government operations. His succession, however, would not be complete until he secured two key posts: general secretary of the Communist Party and president of the republic.

      Earlier in the year North Korea seemed ready to compromise over nuclear inspections. In February Pyongyang announced that it would allow IAEA inspectors to visit seven nuclear sites. In response, the U.S. and South Korea agreed to suspend their annual joint military exercises. IAEA inspectors were blocked from conducting key tests, however. On March 31 the UN Security Council urged North Korea to allow full inspections.

      On June 3 the IAEA informed the UN that it could no longer verify the amount of plutonium North Korea might have produced. Shortly afterward North Korea said that it would "immediately withdraw from the IAEA and would no longer permit inspectors in the country."

      Carter's mediation defused the crisis. The Geneva talks between North Korea and the U.S. resumed on August 5. On August 13 the North pledged to shut down its experimental graphite reactor, which produced significant amounts of plutonium, to halt construction of two other reactors, and to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. In return, the U.S. agreed to arrange financing and construction of two light-water reactors for producing electrical power, at a cost of up to $4 billion. In late September, however, North Korea asked for an additional $7 billion and refused to accept nuclear technology from the South. The U.S. refused to accede to the North's new demands. Pyongyang finally relented, and an agreement was signed on October 21. It was almost derailed, however, when North Korea shot down a U.S. army helicopter that had violated Korean air space on December 17. The U.S. denied accusations that the crew had been on a spying mission. North Korea returned the body of the pilot who had died in the crash and, after 13 days of intense negotiations, released the surviving pilot, who had signed a statement admitting to an "illegal intrusion" into North Korean territory. (JOSEPH L. NAGY)

      This updates the article Korea, North, history of (Korea, North).

▪ 1994

      A socialist republic of northeastern Asia on the northern half of the peninsula of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) borders the Sea of Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Republic of Korea at roughly the 38th parallel. Area: 122,762 sq km (47,399 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 22,646,000. Cap.: Pyongyang. Monetary unit: won, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 2.13 won to U.S. $1 (3.23 won = £ 1 sterling). President in 1993, Marshal Kim Il Sung; chairman of the Council of Ministers (premier), Kang Song San.

      On March 12, 1993, North Korea announced that it would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty effective June 12. The news sent shock waves around the world because no nation had ever threatened to renege on an international agreement to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Pyongyang's decision was a direct response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) insistence that it be allowed to inspect North Korea's nuclear facilities. The agency suspected that North Korea was violating the treaty by separating plutonium for possible use in nuclear weapons. Claiming that the IAEA's demand was a violation of its sovereignty, Pyongyang refused.

      The IAEA had given Pyongyang one month to approve visits to two nuclear-waste-disposal sites at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, 90 km (56 mi) north of the capital. The IAEA team that had inspected some of the facilities in 1992 and examined small amounts of plutonium taken from the site concluded that North Korea was probably reprocessing more plutonium than it had earlier admitted.

      The North's decision to withdraw from the Non-proliferation Treaty came while the U.S. and South Korea were conducting their annual Team Spirit military exercises. Pyongyang called the maneuvers a rehearsal for nuclear war and put its forces on a "semiwar" footing. In response to the North's decision, South Korean Pres. Kim Young Sam imposed economic sanctions on Pyongyang. The IAEA's March 31 deadline passed without compliance. The agency then made a formal complaint to the UN Security Council. Because China had made it clear that it would oppose sanctions, the Council passed a resolution on May 11 calling on Pyongyang to reconsider its actions.

      On April 9 the North Korean government appointed Kim Jong Il chairman of the National Defense Commission, the nation's top military post. Placing the son (and presumed successor) of Pres. Kim Il Sung in complete charge of the military increased suspicions that he was orchestrating the nuclear confrontation. Tensions increased in late May when North Korea successfully tested an intermediate-range missile in the Sea of Japan. The Rodong 1 missile, with a range of 1,000 km (600 mi), was capable of reaching most Japanese cities.

      To defuse the crisis, a series of meetings were held in New York between Robert Gallucci, U.S. assistant secretary of state, and Kang Sok Chu, North Korea's first deputy minister for foreign affairs. On June 11, hours before North Korea's deadline for withdrawing from the treaty, Pyongyang agreed to suspend its withdrawal and to continue talks with the U.S. After further meetings in Geneva, North Korea agreed to discuss site inspections with the IAEA. When the discussions proved fruitless, the IAEA passed another resolution in September pressuring Pyongyang to permit access to its nuclear complex. (JOSEPH L. NAGY)

      This updates the article Korea, North, history of (Korea, North).

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Korea, Democratic People’s Republic Of —    In 1948 the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) announced the creation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the northern section of the Korean peninsula, an area that had fallen into the hands of the Soviet Union in the chaos of the… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Korea, Democratic People's Republic of — (North)    The Democratic People s Republic of Korea was established in the northern half of the country at the end of World War II. A variety of Protestant groups from the Presbyterians and Methodists to the Seventh day Adventist Church and the… …   Encyclopedia of Protestantism

  • Korea, Democratic People's Republic of — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea passport — A North Korean Passport Democratic People s Republic of Korea passports may be issued to citizens of the Democratic People s Republic of Korea for international travel. The privilege of obtaining a passport in North Korea is limited to a select… …   Wikipedia

  • Orders and Medals of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — The award system of the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was initially created, less than one month after the foundation of the Republic, similarily to the Soviet award system. Many of the Orders have the form of stylised five… …   Wikipedia

  • People's Republic — (rarely Popular Republic) is a title that is often used by Marxist Leninist governments to describe their state. The motivation for using this term lies in the claim that Marxist Leninists govern in accordance with the interests of the vast… …   Wikipedia

  • Central Bank of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — 조선민주주의인민공화국중앙은행 Joseon Minjujueui Inmin Gonghwaguk Jungang Eunhaeng Headquarters Pyongyang Central bank of Democratic People s Republic of Korea Currency North Korean won ISO 4217 Code …   Wikipedia

  • Olympic Committee of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — logo National Olympic Committee …   Wikipedia

  • Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — The Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People s Republic of Korea was signed on October 21, 1994 between North Korea (DPRK) and the United States. The objective of the agreement was the freezing and… …   Wikipedia

  • Nationality Law of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea — Chosŏn gŭl 조선민주주의인민공화국 국적법 Hancha 朝鮮民主主義人民共和國 國籍法 McCune–Reischauer …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”