Conflict between North and South Korea

Conflict between North and South Korea

What is the Conflict in the Korean Peninsula?


  • The root of the conflict lies in the Japanese occupation of Korea between 1910- 1945.
  • When Japan was defeated in the Second World War, the Allied forces agreed to establish a “four-power trusteeship over Korea” at the Yalta Conference (1945).
  • However, the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)invaded Korea and took control of the north while the south remained under the rest of the allies, mainly the USA.
    • The division of the two regions was along the 38th parallel north, which still continues to be the official border dividing the two Koreas.
  • In 1948, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) were established.
    • As both tried to enhance their reach, territorially and ideologically, the Korean Conflict emerged between the two nations.

The Korean War:

  • On 25th June 1950, North Korea, backed by the USSR, launched an attack on South Korea and occupied most of the country.
    • In response, the United Nations force led by the US retaliated.
  • In 1951, the US forces led by Douglas MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel and triggered the entry of China in support of North Korea.
    • To prevent further escalation, peace talks began later in 1951.
  • India was actively involved in negotiating peace in the Korean peninsula by engaging all the major stakeholders – the US, USSR, and China.
    • In 1952, the Indian resolution on Korea was adopted by the United Nations (UN).
  • On 27th July 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed between the UN Command, the Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.
    • It led to an official ceasefire without a Peace treaty. Thus, the war officially never ended.
    • This also led to the establishment of the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) – a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea.
  • In December 1991, North and South Korea signed a pact agreeing to refrain from aggression.

What is the US-North Korea Conflict?

  • During the Cold War era, the US extended its Nuclear Umbrella (guarantee of support during a nuclear attack) to its allies i.e., South Korea and Japan.
  • North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 and afterward, under present leader Kim Jong-un, it increased nuclear missile testing.
  • In response to this, the US started deploying THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) in South Korea in March 2017.
  • The territorial conflict that started between North and South Korea has transformed into a tussle between the US and North Korea.

What are the Recent Acts of Aggression by North Korea?

  • In recent years North Korea has accelerated its nuclear program by increasing its nuclear stockpile, withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and tested nuclear explosives multiple times.
  • The USA has deployed THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) in South Korea to counter the increasing missile adventurism of North Korea.
  • North Korea recently demolished the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong, which was established in 2018. In the absence of formal diplomatic relations, the building functioned as a de facto embassy and provided a direct communication channel for the two nations.
  • Most recently in 2024, North Korea conducted a record number of artillery fires near South Korea.
  • The firing was done near an island, which is a disputed island between North and South Korea.

What is India’s Position in the Korean Conflict?

Indian’s Stand:

  • India has consistently voiced its opposition to North Korean nuclear and missile tests. However, it has maintained a neutral stance regarding sanctions.
  • Earlier, during the Korean War (1950- 53), India played a major role in a cease-fire agreement signed between both the warring sides.

India’s Relations with North and South Korea:

  • In May 2015, the bilateral relationship with South Korea was upgraded to a ‘special strategic partnership’.
    • India has a major role to play in South Korea’s Southern Policy under which the latter is looking at expanding relations beyond its immediate region.
    • Similarly, South Korea is a major player in India’s Act East Policy under which India aims to promote economic cooperation, and cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific.
  • India has had diplomatic relations with North Korea for over 47 years, which reflects the legacy of India’s commitment to the Non-Alignment Movement.

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