North And South Korea: One Country, Two States

2259 words - 9 pages

Korea is known as one nation separated by two states. A nation can be defined as a cultural grouping of people who share the same traditions, history, language, and often the same country; whereas, a state is a legal unit with sovereignty over a territory and the residing population. When the country was separated, it was divided along the latitudinal line known as the 38th parallel. Today this border separating the North from the South is called the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and this is where officials from each side come together to discuss inter-Korean relations. After the country’s separation, North Korea adopted and has retained a communist government. Communism is a totalitarian regime that shapes its citizen’s interests and identities with a coherent ideology that mobilizes support for the regime and restricts social and political pluralism. In a communist regime, the wealthy often exploit the poor, the government redistributes economic wealth, and a single party controls the state. On the other hand, South Korea which had been established with an anti-communist authoritarian dictator, has economically modernized to form a democratic state. Like the North’s communist government, the South’s authoritarian regime limited political pluralism, but was not concerned with social pluralism or using coercive mobilization to shape its citizen’s interests and support for the regime. As of 1985, South Korea officially became a democracy in which the rulers would now be held accountable to the people. Despite all of the similarities that the Korean people share, what is it that explains the different and enduring political regimes that each state has adopted? Scholarly evidence has identified three possible factors as the source of both North and South Korea’s enduring political regimes. Geopolitics, the role of leadership, and economics are all possible explanations; however, the most convincing argument seems to be the influence of political leadership and ideology.
Korea’s racial and cultural origins lie with the Tungusic people, and according to the Korean creation myth a man named Tangun set up the Ancient Choson Dynasty in 2333 B.C.E. Over the next several centuries Koreans attempted to resist Chinese invasions and establishments of new dynasties. During this time period, Koreans adopted Confucianism, which had been brought over by China, as part of their culture. In 1392, a Chinese general named Yi Songgye seized control over Korea and founded the Yi Dynasty, which ruled until 1910. Not many years after Songgye took power, Koreans obtained the technology to print their own alphabet. In 1592, Japan invaded Korea, and although the country managed to suppress Japanese rule for some time, it became a tributary state of the Manchu Dynasty in 1637. Over the next couple hundred years, Japan strengthened its influence over Korea and formally claimed the country as part of its own territory in 1910. Attempts made by Koreans to resist Japanese rule...

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