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Koreans welcomed the
defeat of Japan in World War II with great joy and relief.
However, their joy was short-lived. Liberation did not bring the
independence for which the Koreans had fought so hard, but the inception
of ideological conflict in a divided country.
The efforts of the
Koreans to establish and independent government were frustrated by the
United States in the South and the occupation of the North by the Soviet
In November 1947, the
United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which called for a
general election under the supervision of the UN Commission.
However, the Soviet Union refused to comply with the UN resolution and
denied the UN Commission access to the northern part of Korea. The
UN Assembly adopted a new resolution calling for elections in areas
accessible to the UN Commission.
The first elections
in Korea took place on May 10, 1948, in the area south of the 38th
parallel, and the government of the Republic of Korea was inaugurated on
August 15,. A Communist regime was set up in the North under Kim
Il-sung, a Stalinist ruler with absolute power.
On June 25, 1950,
North Korea launched an unprovoked full-scale invasion of the South and
started a war that lasted three years. As the Communist North
Koreans campaigned to unify the country by force, the entire land was
devastated and millions of people were left homeless and separated from
their families. A cease-fire was signed in July 1953, and both
sides have since gone through enormous changes in their efforts at
the long-cherished but elusive goal of all Koreans on both sides of the vigilantly
guarded Military Demarcation Line. The fall of Communism in the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the unification of Germany raised
expectations in Korea the unification could be achieved in the not very
Some progress in
promoting trust and cooperation between the two halves of the peninsula
was made in recent years. However, the threat of North Korea's
suspected nuclear weapons development program has stood in the way of
real forward movement, and there is still a long bumpy road before the
proposed Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) project
for the construction of lightwater nuclear reactors gets under way in
the North and other North Korean nuclear issues are completely settled.
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