Why are there two Koreas?

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38th Parallel buildings
Buildings at the 38th parallel, separating North Korea and South Korea.

The division of Korea into North Korea and South Korea occurred after World War II in 1945, ending the Empire of Japan’s nearly four-decade-long rule over a unified Korean country. The United States and the Soviet Union each took control of a portion of the Korean peninsula. The U.S. controlled the south, while the Soviets (Russians) took control of the north. The boundary was set along the 38th parallel north, which is roughly the geographic halfway point.

BACKGROUND

The empire of Japan occupied a unified Koreans country in the late 19th century and eventually officially annexed it in 1910. When the Japanese empire was defeated at the end of World War II, something had to be done with the Korean peninsula. This area essentially became a pawn in the Cold War. It was eventually agreed upon that the area would be divided into two areas along the 38th parallel. The Russians would control the area north of the 38th parallel (North Korea), while the U.S. would control the area south of the 38th parallel (South Korea). The Russians installed a communist regime in the north, while the south became more capitalistic and democratic (although not immediately).

Since the division, South Korea’s economy has largely prospered, while North Korea remains an authoritarian police state and an economic basket case.

The subsequent Korean War, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, ended in a stalemate, resulting in Korea being divided by a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) up to the present day.

INTERESTING FACTS
  1. North Korea self-reports that it has a 100% literacy rate.
  2. Less than 5 percent of roads in North Korea are paved.
  3. North Koreans born after the Korean War are around 2 inches shorter than South Koreans.
  4. North Korea created its own time zone in 2015 called Pyongyang Time, named after the capital city, which is 30 minutes behind the time in South Korea and Japan.
INTERESTING VIDEO

INTERESTING REFERENCES
  1. Wikipedia.org – Division of Korea
  2. History.com – Why are North and South Korea divided?
  3. Independent.co.uk – 15 fascinating facts about North Korea

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