At 4 a.m. on Sunday, June 25, 1950,
North Korea launched a surprise attack against South Korea to ignite the Korean War, a tragic fratricidal conflict.
70 years have passed since then.
The sound of gunfire and cries of victims stopped long ago, but the pain of national division still remains.
While South and North Korea have feuded and clashed with each other occasionally, they have never given up hope for a peaceful, unified Korea.
Let’s look back on the paths the two Koreas have walked over the past seven decades.
On August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from a 35-year Japanese colonial rule.
But Koreans’ joy didn’t last long. As the Cold War rivalry between the capitalist U.S. and the communist USSR intensified, conflict surrounding the Korean Peninsula also escalated.
The peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel, with the U.S. occupying the southern half and the Soviet Union taking control of the northern half, forcing South and North Korea to walk different paths. Military clashes between the two sides often erupted, indicating growing signs of war.VIEW MORE
The war broke out at the peaceful predawn of Sunday, June 25, 1950. At the time, the military command in South Korea carried out a personnel reshuffle and many soldiers were on leave in the busy farming season.Catching the South Korean troops off guard, North Korean forces stormed across the 38th parallel under a meticulously-planned strategy. In just three days, on June 28, they occupied Seoul and invaded further south to make a brutal attack all across South Korea.
Two months after the war began, the entire Korean Peninsula, except for the region south of Nakdong River in the southeastern area, fell to the hands of North Korean troops.VIEW MORE
On June 26, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and passed a resolution calling for an immediate halt to the hostilities and the withdrawal of North Korean forces to the 38th parallel.VIEW MORE
The truce negotiations lasted for two years. From the beginning of the longest such talks in history, the U.N. forces and the communist forces remained at odds on terms for the agreement.VIEW MORE
During the 1,129-day Korean War from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 138,000 South Korean soldiers were killed in action and 450,000 others were injured. Casualties of South Korean troops came to 621,000, including those missing.VIEW MORE
The (Korean Peninsula A to Z) page has been created using materials in accordance with the Korea Open Government License (KOGL) Type 4. Before using the materials on the site, please check for the original source.
On August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from a 35-year Japanese colonial rule.
But Koreans’ joy didn’t last long. As the Cold War rivalry between the capitalist U.S. and the communist USSR intensified, conflict surrounding the Korean Peninsula also escalated.
The peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel, with the U.S. occupying the southern half and the Soviet Union taking control of the northern half, forcing South and North Korea to walk different paths.
Military clashes between the two sides often erupted, indicating growing signs of war.
The war broke out at the peaceful predawn of Sunday, June 25, 1950. At the time, the military command in South Korea carried out a personnel reshuffle and many soldiers were on leave in the busy farming season. Catching the South Korean troops off guard, North Korean forces stormed across the 38th parallel under a meticulously-planned strategy. In just three days, on June 28, they occupied Seoul and invaded further south to make a brutal attack all across South Korea.
Two months after the war began, the entire Korean Peninsula, except for the region south of Nakdong River in the southeastern area, fell to the hands of North Korean troops.
On June 26, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and passed a resolution calling for an immediate halt to the hostilities and the withdrawal of North Korean forces to the 38th parallel. As North Korea continued to invade the South, however, the U.N. determined on June 28 that military measures were required to restore peace. On July 7, the U.N. Command was established. One day later, General Douglas MacArthur was appointed as commander in chief of the U.N. forces.
During the war, a total of 21 countries fought for South Korea under the U.N. banner. Among them, 16 countries—the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, Turkey, the Philippines, Thailand, the Netherlands, Colombia, Greece, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Belgium, France, South Africa and Luxemburg—dispatched combat soldiers. Five others such as Sweden, India, Denmark, Norway and Italy sent medical teams. In 2018, South Korea added Germany to the list of providers of medical assistance to South Korea. Numerous countries also provided aid materials and funds to South Korea.
The truce negotiations lasted for two years. From the beginning of the longest such talks in history, the U.N. forces and the communist forces remained at odds on terms for the agreement.
During the 1,129-day Korean War from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 138,000 South Korean soldiers were killed in action and 450,000 others were injured. Casualties of South Korean troops came to 621,000, including those missing. The war left 520,000 North Korean soldiers killed or wounded, with the casualties amounting to 800,000. The U.N. forces also suffered great damage, as 41,000 died and 104,000 were injured. Their casualties reached 155,000, including the missing and POWs. That’s not the end, however. Far more civilians than soldiers perished during the war. More than one million South Korean civilians were killed, wounded or missing, while the number of civilian victims in North Korea amounted to 1.55 million. It is assumed that one-fifth of the population on the entire Korean Peninsula fell victim to the war.
In addition to the human casualties, the Korean War took a heavy toll on the economy and society. In South Korea, the war devastated 43 percent of industrial facilities and 50 percent of coal mines, with the damage totaling 2,281,050,000 US dollars.
During the war, 10 million people were separated from their families, 300,000 women lost their husbands and 100,000 people lost their parents. Sadly, the Korean Peninsula still remains the only divided country in the world.
South Korea was hit hard by torrential rains that lasted for ten days from July 14, 1956. 68 people were dead or wounded, with the damage amounting to 4.37 billion hwan, which was the South Korean currency at the time. On July 27, the North Korean Red Cross proposed to its South Korean counterpart that it provide aid to flood victims in the South. But the Rhee Syng-man government in Seoul turned down the offer, regarding it as Pyongyang’s political offensive.
South and North Korea held the first talks on sports in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1963 as the International Olympic Committee had recommended the two Koreas to field a unified team to participate in the Olympics. Despite two more subsequent meetings, however, the two sides failed to narrow their differing views and the joint team never materialized.
A group of highly-trained North Korean commandos attempted to attack the South Korean presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae on January 21, 1968. The 31 armed guerillas crossed the ceasefire line into the South and infiltrated Seoul under the cover of night. When their identities were revealed at the Jahamun guard post, only hundreds of meters away from the presidential office, they threw grenades into the police and fired submachine guns at random. They even threw a grenade into a passing bus, killing and injuring innocent citizens. The military police immediately launched an operation to wipe out the infiltrators. They captured Kim Shin-jo alive and shot 28 dead. Following the incident, tension heightened in South-North relations, and South Korea created the reserve troops to enhance local area defense capabilities and prepare for North Korea’s unconventional warfare.
South and North Korea had been reluctant to hold talks until the 1960s in the Cold War era. But they began to pave the way for dialogue in the 1970s. On August 20, 1971, Red Cross societies of the two sides had their first contact to discuss the issue of the families separated by the Korean War, as North Korea had accepted the dialogue proposal by the South Korean Red Cross. Following the first cross-border dialogue, seven rounds of inter-Korean Red Cross meetings were held from August 1972 to July the following year to discuss the confirmation of life status and whereabouts of separated families, their possible reunions and letter exchanges.
Between the end of 1971 and March 1972, the two Koreas held secret meetings at the truce village of Panmunjom. The meetings facilitated the Pyongyang visit by then-South Korean Central Intelligence Agency chief Lee Hu-rak in early May and North Korean deputy prime minister Pak Song-chol’s visit to Seoul later in the month. The development marked the first exchange of political opinions between the two sides. Finally on July 4, the joint communiqué was announced both in Seoul and Pyongyang. In the first official agreement adopted by the two Koreas in 27 years since the division of the Korean Peninsula, they agreed on three principles of unification: independence, peace and national unity. These principles have served as a basic guideline for all subsequent inter-Korean talks.
While inter-Korean talks were underway, then-South Korean President Park Chung-hee announced the June 23 declaration. In this declaration, Park called for the two Koreas to refrain from intervening in each other’s domestic politics. It stated that South Korea would not oppose the simultaneous entry of the two Koreas to the U.N. and North Korea’s participation in international organizations. It advocates an open-door policy toward nations, regardless of political systems. On a positive note, the declaration stayed away from the previous hostile, rigid unification policy but expressed the South Korean government’s active commitment to peaceful unification instead. However, North Korea criticized it for only perpetuating national division by admitting two different governments on the divided peninsula. Afterwards, inter-Korean dialogue was brought to a standstill again.
On August 18, 1976, U.S. officers under the U.N. troops were trimming a poplar tree that was blocking the view from the observation post in the Joint Security Area. North Korean soldiers took issue with that, demanding a halt to the work. Amid a war of nerves, the North Korean troops brutally murdered two American soldiers with axes that had been left by South Korean laborers who ran away. Rather than apologizing for the shocking attack, however, North Korea demanded that South Korea and the U.S. punish those responsible. Negotiations fell apart, and the South Korean military and the U.N. troops stationed in South Korea entered a quasi-state of wartime for the first time since the end of the Korean War. But the U.S., which was dealing with the aftermath of Vietnam War, found it inappropriate to stage an all-out war. The conflict was eventually settled after American and South Korean forces cut down the tree and the U.S. accepted then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung’s message expressing regret for the incident. After the incident, the military demarcation line at Panmunjom was marked by a concrete slab.
On October 9, 1983, then-South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan was on a state visit to Burma (now Myanmar), the first leg of his six-nation tour. A bomb planted by North Korean terrorists exploded at the Aung San Martyr’s Mausoleum in the capital of Rangoon (now Yangon), killing 17 South Korean government officials and journalists and injuring 14 others who were waiting there for the South Korean president to arrive. It was the bloodiest terrorist attack in the history of international diplomacy. The Burmese government arrested two terrorists, sentenced them to death and severed diplomatic relations with North Korea. In October 1984, it reported to the U.N. that North Korea was responsible for the bombing. Three countries broke off diplomatic ties with North Korea and 69 nations issued a statement condemning the North.
In late summer of 1984, Seoul was hit by the worst flood in history due to heavy downpours that lasted for five days from August 31. While South Korea was struggling to recover from the disaster, the North Korean Red Cross proposed on September 8 to provide relief goods to flood victims in South Korea, in light of brotherly love and humanitarian engagement. On September 14, the South Korean Red Cross announced that it would accept the proposal. As a result, North Korea’s aid supplies were delivered to the South through Incheon Port and Panmunjom. The first post-war delivery of goods across the border helped create a reconciliatory mood in bilateral relations, which had been strained by the Rangoon bombing in 1983.
From September 20 to 23 in 1985, separated family members of South and North Korea were reunited with their long-lost kin living on the other side of the heavily armed border. In accordance with the agreement reached at inter-Korean Red Cross talks, the two sides exchanged its own home visiting group and artists of cultural performances in Seoul and Pyongyang. 35 South Korean delegates met with their loved ones in Pyongyang, while 30 North Koreans saw their lost relatives in Seoul. An art group from Seoul gave two performances at the Pyongyang Grand Theatre, and an art troupe from Pyongyang also held two shows at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul. The event marked the first civilian exchanges between the two Koreas since national division.
North Korea built a nuclear reactor in Yongbyon in 1980 and constructed nuclear reprocessing facilities in 1985 to draw international attention. The Soviet Union pressured North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons, leading the country to joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985. In return, North Korea was provided with military weapons, including fighters, by the Soviet Union. But North Korea refused to sign a full-scope safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It was not until January 30, 1992, that North Korea inked the agreement.
On November 29, 1987, Korean Air Flight 858 flying from Bagdad, Iraq, to Seoul exploded in mid-air over the Indian Ocean upon the detonation of a bomb installed inside the plane by two North Korean special agents. After investigation, the South Korean government concluded that the deadly terrorist attack was carried out under the instruction of North Korea and brought one of the suspects, Kim Hyon-hui, to Seoul.
South and North Korea fielded the first unified team for the 41st World Table Tennis Championships held in Chiba, Japan in April 1991. At the time, the joint women’s team beat out defending champion China to claim gold. Men’s team also advanced to the semifinals. In Chiba, Team Korea used a flag that bears an image of the Korean Peninsula in blue against a white background and the song “Arirang” for the first time. The flag and the song have since served as a symbol of joint Korean teams.
At the 46th session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 18, 1991, South and North Korea were admitted to the U.N. at the same time. Both Koreas became the members of the U.N., 46 years after the division of Korea and 46 years after the establishment of the international organization. In fact, Seoul and Pyongyang had shown widely differing views on admission to the U.N. South Korea had sought to apply for separate membership in the U.N., while North Korea was opposed to the move, which it claimed to be a scheme to make Korea’s division permanent. After the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and China no longer objected to South Korea’s admission to the U.N. Out of concerns over international isolation, North Korea changed its attitude and decided to enter the U.N. with South Korea simultaneously. With their U.N. membership, South and North Korea enhanced their international status and gained a foothold to normalize bilateral ties and improve relations with the outside world.
Following three rounds of inter-Korean talks, chief delegates of South and North Korea agreed on the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on December 31, 1991. The declaration states that the two sides shall not test, manufacture or produce nuclear weapons and shall not possess uranium enrichment facilities.
North Korea held talks with the U.S. in Beijing from 1987 to 1992 to improve bilateral relations. As Washington refused to accept Pyongyang’s demand, North Korea said in a government statement that it would withdraw from the NPT. The international community viewed the decision as a major threat, as it meant North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.
The international community condemned North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT, calling it an act of destroying world peace, and prepared to impose sanctions on the country. But the U.S. was wary of the possibility of China’s military intervention in line with the Sino-North Korean Alliance Treaty. North Korea, for its part, was concerned over the prolonged international isolation and deepening economic woes as a result of its nuclear weapons development. After negotiations, the two countries signed the Agreed Framework in Geneva in October 1994. Under the accord, North Korea promised to freeze its nuclear program, while the U.S. agreed to build two light-water reactors, provide heavy oil and move toward the normalization of political and economic ties.
Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung crossed the border into North Korea through Panmunjom in June and October 1998 with a herd of cattle. Chung was born in Tongcheon, Gangwon Province, now in North Korea. When he was 17, he ran away from home and left for Seoul with 70 won he earned from selling his father’s cow. Decades later, he paid back the debt owed to his father by donating a herd of 1,001 cattle to North Korea. The landmark cattle crossing provided momentum to vitalize cross-border exchanges.
On November 18, 1998, the Mt. Geumgang tour program kicked off to allow South Korean civilians to travel to North Korea, setting a new milestone in the history of the divided Korean Peninsula. As the symbol of cross-border cooperation, it was the result of ten long years of efforts of Hyundai Group and the South Korean government’s Sunshine Policy of engaging North Korea. However, the tour business experienced difficulties amid the ever-changing inter-Korean relations.
In the morning of June 15, 1999, North Korean patrol ships and torpedo boats, along with 20 fishing boats, crossed the Northern Limit Line and traveled 2 kilometers south past the maritime border. The South Korean Navy issued warnings over a loudspeaker and rammed the North Korean vessels twice. The naval clash injured seven South Korean sailors, sank one North Korean ship and damaged five other boats.
In his inauguration speech in 1998, then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung highlighted the possibility of a summit between South and North Korea. The Seoul government then proposed an inter-Korean summit and exchanges of special envoys. For three days starting June 13, 2000, President Kim and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il held a summit in Pyongyang and adopted the June 15 South-North joint declaration. The first-ever inter-Korean summit is considered a historic turning point for the two Koreas to end their hostilities and open a new era of unification.
The Gyeongui Rail Line on the western part of the Korean Peninsula had been severed since the division of Korea. The disconnected section spanned 20 kilometers—12 km in the South Korean side and 8 km in North Korean territory. Following the 2000 inter-Korean summit, Seoul and Pyongyang held ministerial-level talks to carry out the project of reconnecting the cross-border railway. In September 2000, South Korea constructed the railway section between Munsan and the ceasefire line, while North Korea conducted its own work on the section between Gaeseong and the border line.
There had been no progress in the separated families issue for 15 years since the exchanges of home visiting groups and cultural delegations in September 1985. In accordance with the agreement reached at the first round of inter-Korean Red Cross talks in June 2000, 1,170 separated family members held tearful reunions with their long-lost relatives in Seoul and Pyongyang that year. During the fifth round of Red Cross talks in November 2003, South and North Korea agreed to introduce video reunions as a new method of solving the separated families’ issue. At the ninth Red Cross meeting in November 2007, they agreed to expand the reunions and hold the program on a regular basis. Through the contact of liaison officers at Panmunjom on February 5, 2008, the two sides agreed on the exchange of video letters between split families. Accordingly, 20 displaced families from each side exchanged video letters on a trial basis. The 17th and 18th face-to-face family reunions were held in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In the aftermath of North Korea’s artillery attack against the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong in late 2010, the reunion program was suspended for a while before resuming in February 2014. On August 25, 2015, the South and the North held high-level contact and agreed to organize a fresh round of reunions. Under the agreement, the 20th round of the reunions took place in October that year. The two Koreas saw eye to eye on the need to address this humanitarian issue again during their summit at Panmunjom on April 27, 2018, prompting the 21st such event to take place at Mt. Geumgang in August in the same year.
The Gyeongui Rail Line opened in 1906 to connect Seoul with Sinuiju on the western side of the Korean Peninsula, but ceased operations during the Korean War. The two Koreas agreed on the reconnection of the railway, as a follow-up measure to the 2000 inter-Korean summit. After restoration work, Dorasan Station, the final northernmost stop of the Gyeongui Line in South Korea, opened in April 2002. In 2002, then-U.S. President George W. Bush visited the station with his South Korean counterpart Kim Dae-jung and delivered a speech. The final point in South Korea’s railway with the North has since remained a symbolic place wishing for peace and unification.
The second battle of Yeonpyeong broke out on June 29, 2002, the day of the third-place match at the Korea-Japan World Cup. Two North Korean patrol boats crossed the Northern Limit Line on the West Sea and intruded into South Korean waters. They attacked South Korean Chamsuri-class patrol boats, triggering a fierce exchange of gunfire. The bloody naval skirmish killed six South Korean sailors, including Captain, Lt. Cmdr. Yoon Yeong-ha, and injured 18 others. The Chamsuri 357 patrol boat sank into the sea. About 30 North Korean sailors were killed or wounded, while its patrol ship Dengsangot 684 was towed back to the North, partially destroyed. The second battle of Yeonpyeong came as a shock all the more because South and North Korea promised to restore bilateral relations through a South Korean special envoy’s visit to North Korea in April that year.
Conflict between North Korea and the U.S. escalated due to the former’s uncooperative attitude toward nuclear inspections and the slow progress in the latter’s construction of light-water reactors. Against the backdrop, the second North Korean nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002, following fresh allegations that North Korea had operated a highly enriched uranium program. North Korea announced that it would lift its nuclear freeze and reactivate nuclear facilities. For the second time, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the NPT on January 10, 2003. No country had ever declared withdrawal from the NPT since the international treaty went into effect in 1970. The unprecedented withdrawal of an NPT member posed a grave challenge to nuclear nonproliferation.
The Gaeseong Industrial Park is a business venture combining South Korea’s capital and technology with North Korea’s land and labor. 15 South Korean firms entered the pilot industrial complex in June 2004. The historic project, which opened a new chapter in inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges, carries great socio-economic and cultural significance. The industrial complex accounted for a growing portion of inter-Korean trade to reach 99.6 percent in 2015. It turned into an economic and residential community where 54,800 North Korean laborers and 800 South Korean people engaged in production activities together. Nevertheless, the inter-Korean joint economic project experienced ups and downs due to unstable inter-Korean relations and the North Korean nuclear issue. After all, the South Korean government suspended operations of the factory park in February 2016, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and long-range missile firing as well as allegations that the profits from the industrial complex were used for North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.
In February 2005, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the nation had manufactured nuclear weapons for self-defense. In April 2012, North Korea revised its constitution and claimed itself a nuclear state.
On September 19, 2005, North Korea expressed its commitment to giving up all its nuclear programs. In line with the decision, chief delegates of six countries such as the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia agreed on the so-called September 19 joint statement at the fourth round of six-party nuclear talks. The positive development was considered the beginning of the process of building a peace regime, as North Korea’s nuclear renunciation would lead to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Right after the joint statement was released, however, the U.S. designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. In response, North Korea test-fired missiles in July 2006 and conducted its first nuclear test in October that year. The September 19 joint statement was, in effect, scrapped.
North Korea went ahead with its first nuclear test on October 9, 2006, in defiance of concerns and warnings of neighboring countries, especially China. The U.S. led the drive for a U.N. resolution calling for great pressure on North Korea. The move drew strong backlash from Pyongyang, which threatened to bolster its war deterrence by mobilizing all possible means available. The U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1718 that bans the sale and transfer to North Korea of materials and technology related to weapons of mass destruction and imposes a ban on the entry of North Korean personnel involved in the country’s nuclear program.
From October 2 to 4, 2007, then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun visited Pyongyang and held a summit with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il. For the second inter-Korean summit, following the first in Pyongyang in June 2000, Roh walked into North Korea across the Military Demarcation Line(MDL) on October 2 as the first South Korean head of state to do so. Roh and Kim held a summit on October 3 and adopted a declaration on the advancement of inter-Korean relations, peace and prosperity the following day. Based on the June 15 joint declaration adopted at the first inter-Korean summit in 2000, the October 4 declaration includes inter-Korean agreements on the promotion of three or four-party talks aimed at resolving the nuclear issue, the active implementation of cross-border economic cooperation projects and the expansion of reunions of separated families.
The Mt. Geumgang tour program grew significantly both in quality and quantity until the first half of 2008. On July 11, 2008, something unfortunate and completely unexpected happened. A South Korean tourist at the Mt. Geumgang resort was shot dead by a North Korean soldier. The Seoul government decided to suspend the tours from July 12, in the belief that it was a grave matter of life and safety of South Korean nationals.
On May 25, 2009, North Korea pushed ahead with its second nuclear test in Punggye-ri located in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, where the country conducted its first nuclear test. The international community condemned North Korea with one voice. On June 12, 2009, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1874 calling for even stronger sanctions on North Korea.
At 21:22 on March 26, 2010, the 1,200-ton South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan sank after a torpedo attack by North Korea. Of 104 crewmembers on board, 58 were rescued but the remaining 46 were killed. To identify the exact cause of the incident, the South Korean military, in March, formed a joint civilian-military investigation group that included foreign experts from the U.S., Britain, Australia and Sweden. In May, the joint investigation team concluded that North Korea was responsible for the incident, saying that propulsion parts collected from seabed matched the schematics of the CHT-02D torpedo manufactured by North Korea.
As it turned out that North Korea was behind the deadly sinking of the Cheonan warship, the Seoul government imposed a package of sanctions on North Korea to prevent Pyongyang from launching additional provocations and make it clearly aware that it should be held accountable. Known as the May 24 measures, the sanctions ban South Korean visits to the North and inter-Korean trade, except with the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and Mt. Geumgang. They also bar new South Korean investment in the North, prohibit North Korean ships from entering South Korean waters and suspend most aid programs.
On November 23, 2010, North Korea unleashed an artillery attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. North Korea indiscriminately fired a barrage of shells into unarmed civilian homes as well as a military base on the island. The bombardment killed two South Korean Marines, two civilians and injured many others. Many local residents lost their homes overnight, as 133 buildings were damaged. It was the first time that South Korean territory was under attack since the Korean War. The military attack, which resulted in the deaths of civilians, was indeed a grave provocation to destroy regional peace.
On February 12, 2013, North Korea pressed ahead with yet another nuclear test at the Punggye-ri test site in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, where it carried out the two previous tests of the same nature. Pyongyang’s third nuclear experiment drew strong criticism from the international community. The U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2094 to slap harsh sanctions on North Korea. Many countries around the world, including China, condemned North Korea’s nuclear test and joined the international sanctions.
North Korea’s fourth nuclear test occurred, again, in Punggye-ri on January 6, 2016. The international community discussed even tougher sanctions on the North. Resolution 2270 that was adopted by the U.N. Security Council on March 2, 2016 imposes the strongest and most comprehensive non-military sanctions on North Korea. South Korea, in particular, temporarily suspended the operations of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launches.
The Gaeseong Industrial Park, a symbol of inter-Korean economic cooperation, faced a major setback in 2016. On February 10, 2016, the Park Geun-hye government in South Korea announced its decision to stop operations at the Gaeseong Park, in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and its series of long-range missile launches. The following day, North Korea closed the park, froze South Korean assets and expelled South Korean personnel. The abrupt shutdown took a heavy toll on South Korean manufacturers that had done business at the park. The inter-Korean factory park remains closed to this day.
On September 9, 2016, North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test at the Punggye-ri test site. Analysts speculated that through the test, North Korea took a step closer to the stage of possessing a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and deploying it for actual combat use. The U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2321 that contained additional sanction measures against North Korea.
North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on September 3, 2017, came a year after its previous test and marked its first detonation of a nuclear bomb since the inaugurations of the Moon Jae-in government in South Korea and the Donald Trump administration in the U.S. In response, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 2375.
With just 20 days left before the start of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, the two Koreas made a dramatic agreement on the joint entrance of athletes from the two sides at the opening ceremony and the creation of a joint women’s ice hockey team. It was the first joint Korean team in any sport in the Olympic history. Held in the only divided country in the world, the PyeongChang Games highlighted the Olympic spirit of peace and harmony.
On April 27, 2018, South and North Korea held their third bilateral summit at the Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjom. North Korean Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean soil. The leaders of both Koreas held hands and crossed the military demarcation line. At one point, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un talked by themselves without any other attendees. They stood side by side to declare the opening of a peaceful era. These scenes were broadcast live throughout the world. At the end of the summit, the two leaders jointly announced the Panmunjom Declaration on Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula. The declaration holds great significance as it brought to light the two Koreas’ shared goal of achieving a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula through complete denuclearization.
South and North Korea competed as one at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Sweden. The joint Korean women’s team lost to Japan in the semifinals, but all athletes from the South and the North stood on the podium together and shared joy, with bronze medals around their necks.
A month after their first summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for a second summit at Unification Pavilion on the North Korean side of Panmunjom on May 26, 2018. In the afternoon of the previous day, Kim delivered his hope to meet Moon without any formalities and Moon gladly accepted the proposal. During the surprise meeting, the two engaged in candid dialogue. They reaffirmed that they should never stop the journey toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a permanent peace regime. They promised to closely cooperate for the stated goal.
On June 12, 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Singapore for the first-ever summit between the two countries since the 1953 Korean War Armistice. During the summit, Trump promised to provide security guarantee for Pyongyang, while Kim reiterated his commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The summit was indeed a historic event to open a new future. But it is rather disappointing that the joint statement did not include the phrase, “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID).”
For the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, South and North Korea sent unified Korean teams in three events such as basketball, canoeing and rowing. Under the title of “Korea,” the unified Korean athletes captured one gold medal, one silver and two bronzes to rank 28th in medal standings.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held their third summit in Pyongyang for three days starting September 18, 2018. Moon is the third sitting South Korean president to visit Pyongyang, following Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007. Moon and Kim announced the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, in which they agreed on inter-Korean economic cooperation projects including the connection of cross-border railways and roads as well as measures to ease military tension including denuclearization. Right after the two leaders signed the agreement, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and his North Korean counterpart No Kwang-chol signed a comprehensive military agreement to realize the historic Panmunjom Declaration. On September 19, Moon made a speech in front of 150,000 Pyongyang citizens, becoming the first South Korean president to speak before the North Korean public. On the last day of September 20, Moon and Kim climbed Mt. Baekdu together. The two leaders clasped hands and raised them high over their heads at the top of the mountain, overseeing Cheonji crater lake. It is considered one of the most memorable scenes in the three-day summit.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the connection and modernization of inter-Korean railways and roads took place at Panmun Station in Gaeseong on December 26, 2018. The railways, when connected, will complete the Trans-Korean Railway (TKR), which will be linked all the way to Europe via the Trans-China Railway and the Trans-Mongolian Railway.
On June 30, 2019, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump held a meeting at Panmunjom for the first time ever. Trump met with Kim at the military demarcation line and crossed over to the North Korean side of Panmunjom to become the first U.S. president to step on North Korean soil. The pair crossed back to the South Korean side and met with Moon, who was waiting in front of the Freedom House. The three then held a brief meeting. After bilateral talks with Kim, Trump said that North Korea and the U.S. would resume working-level talks.