In 1866, the sinking of General Sherman, an American merchant ship, was the first major hostile act between the United States and Korea.
1945: Korean Peninsula becomes a new flashpoint
The Japanese surrender in September 1945 brought an end to their occupation of the Korean peninsula. The Soviet Union immediately began to extend its influence in the area. At the time, Kim II-sung was a leader in the resistance movement against the occupying Japanese forces in Korea. Exposed at a young age to Communist ideology, he soon joined the Soviet Red Army, rising to the rank of Major. The Soviet Union entered the war with Japan on August 8, 1945, and immediately entered the Korean Peninsula from the north. On August 25, 1945, the Red Army reached Pyongyang and began moving further south.
Meanwhile, the Red Army identified Kim II-sung as the potential leader to head the Korean Communist Party in Korea.
1948: Rise of Kim II-sung
Single party elections held in the Communist-controlled areas of the north on August 25, 1948. On September 9, 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was proclaimed with Kim II-sung elected as its Premier. The Soviet Red Army withdrew their forces from the Korean peninsula after successfully installing Kim II-sung as the leader. Backed by training, military hardware, and support from the Red Army, Kim began the process of consolidation of power.
1950: Kim II-sung sends his forces into the Southern part
Meanwhile, large sections of people living in the southern side were opposing the Communist domination across large parts of the peninsula and soon declared independence. In June 1950, Kim-II-sung ordered his army to take control of the southern side. His forces soon captured Seoul, and his Army continued to push further south.
1950 – 1953: Korean War
Alarmed at the communist takeover of the Korean peninsula, the United Nations led by the United States decided to intervene militarily. General Douglas MacArthur led UN forces and launched Operation Chromite with an amphibious land landing at Inchon on September 10, 1950. The UN forces managed to push the North Korean forces back across the thirty-eighth parallel and continued further north to capture Pyongyang.
The forces of UN soon reached the Yalu River, close to the Chinese border, forcing China to order their forces to enter the war. The Chinese forces, supported by the North Korean forces under Kim II-sung managed to push back the UN forces south of the thirty-eighth parallel.
The war of attrition continued for three years with both sides holding positions just north of the thirty-eighth parallel. An armistice was negotiated and signed on July 27, 1953, with the two Koreas divided at the Demilitarized Zone, close to the thirty-eighth parallel. The Chinese withdrew their forces, but the U.S. forces remained in South Korea.
1968: North captures USS Pueblo
From 1953 onwards, the People’s Republic of Korea (PRK) or South Korea, began a process of rapid industrialization, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea, pursued a socialist economy. The country remained poor and underdeveloped. Hostility between North and South Korea continued with both sides keeping their respective militaries on full alert.
January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, an American Intelligence ship was attacked and captured by North Korea. One crew member was killed, and 83 others taken prisoners. The Pueblo incident raised tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. On December 23, 1968, the crew was released, but the USS Pueblo remains moored as part of the museum on display in North Korea.
1974: Kim II-sung announces his son Kim Jong-iI as successor
Kim II-sung was not originally intended to promote dynasty, but with the announcement of his eldest son as his successor, he established his family as the rulers of North Korea.
1985: North Korea signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Severe international pressure and a struggling economy forced Kim Jong-iI to agree to sign the NPT. However, the country did not sign the safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and later made it conditional to U.S. withdrawal of nuclear weapons from South Korea.
In 1991, President George Bush announced the unilateral withdrawal of all nuclear weapons from foreign soil and this was followed by President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union announcing a similar withdrawal. The same year, the South Korean President Roh Tae Woo announced a commitment to the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by agreeing to freeze testing, production, and storing of nuclear weapons.
2002: President George W. Bush names North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, ‘The Axis of Evil,’ for building weapons of mass destruction.
2002: Oil shipments to North Korea are stopped over their secret nuclear program. In retaliation, North Korea rejects IAEA inspectors.
2003: In January, North Korea walked out of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. Diplomatic efforts lead to Six-Party talks between the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea. Later in the year, North Korea exited the 1992 Agreement with South Korea to keep the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
2005: North Korea officially admits to having produced nuclear weapons.
2006: North Korea conducted its first nuclear weapons test. The country continues the testing and development of missiles.
2007: Under international pressure, North Korea destroys its Yongbyon reactor in exchange for 50,000 tons of food grains.
2009: In April, North Korea shocked the world by launching a long-range rocket, claiming it carried a communications satellite. In retaliation to U.N. condemnation of the test, North Korea walked out of the Six-Party talks and restarted its nuclear weapons program.
2011: On December 17, Kim Jong-iI dies. His youngest son, 28-year old Kim Jong-un takes over.
2013: North Korea attracted further sanctions from the U.N. after it conducted the third nuclear test.
2014: North Korea continues testing missile launches against the global protest. The country accused of launching cyber-attacks on the U.S. and its allies.
2016: In January, North Korea announced it had tested its Hydrogen bomb. The world reacts with skepticism. The country continues to suffer under prolonged sanctions.
2017: North Korea launches missiles into the Sea of Japan threatening to hit American bases in Guam. The U.S. responds with more sanctions and begins stepping up anti-missile defenses in Guam, South Korea, and Japan.
2018: North Korea sends a team to jointly participate with South Korea in the Winter Olympics held in South Korea. Kim Jong-un’s sister accompanies the team. Thaw in relations, as both sides agree to open direct talks.
2018: A Historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the DMZ. Kim became the first President to step into South Korea since 1945. Kim Jong-un agrees to meet with President Donald Trump later in the year. In May, North Korea threatened to cancel the proposed meeting with President Trump citing ongoing military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.
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