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Σάββατο, 20 Ιουλίου, 2024
ΑρχικήEnglish EditionSouth and North Korea Comparison

South and North Korea Comparison


By Phaidra Chrysostali,

Korea is one of the most exceptional cases that have marked history. After decades of being colonized by foreign countries and many revolutionary movements, Korea finally became independent in 1919. The Allied countries recognized that Korea is not in a position to be self-governed and decided to govern the country until they believed it was ready to become fully independent. Due to the inability of the states to decide on Korea’s future, the United States and the Soviet Union decided to divide the country and govern the two sides separately. Unfortunately, the significant ideological difference between the countries brought them into war that damaged their relations forever. After the end of the Korean War in 1953, the two countries marked a very different development, especially concerning the social, economic, and political sectors. Until today, the relations between the two states remain hostile and the hopes of unification are low.

During the Second World War, the Allied countries – United States, Soviet Union, and the Republic of China – acknowledged the fact that Korea had not been independent nor self-governed for almost 35 years which clearly indicated that Korea needed guidance from these powers. The Franklin D. Roosevelt administration wanted to protect the nation’s interests and avoid any potential conflict with the peninsula by granting them their independence and freedom. At the Yalta Conference of February 1945, Roosevelt proposed to Stalin a three-power trusteeship of Korea: The U.S., China, and Soviet Union. Roosevelt’s proposal was not supported by most of the Allied powers, except the Soviet Union which agreed to help the United States. Meanwhile, Russia was at war with Japan in order to free Korea but the Allied Powers had not yet decided about Korea’s occupation. They ended up proposing the division of Korea into two parts, North and South Korea, across the 38th parallel which would be governed separately by the United States and the Soviet Union. North Korea was designated as a Soviet zone and South Korea as an American zone.

Image Rights: Niche Gallery

In 1947, the UN Assembly set up a Temporary Commission to supervise the elections in order for a National Government of Korea to be set up. The Soviet Union was very against it since they wanted to spread communism across North Korea and in September 1948, the People’s Democratic Republic was established on the Soviet model. In South Korea, the Republic of Korea was established and soon after, the U.S. army left the country. The interests of the two countries began to clash when they both realized their significant differences in ideological beliefs. The West promoted democratic values and capitalism, while the Soviet Union sought to expand communism.

After many decades, relations between the two countries remain hostile and the hopes for unification are extremely low. Even though the two countries have ideologically different governments, they are practically one nation since they share the same language, culture, and history but still have not united.

We will focus on the differences in economic development in both countries and show that even if they are practically one country, their growth difference is significant. Starting off with South Korea, whose development over the last half century has been nothing but spectacular. When South Korea first became independent, it had a per capita income of 23,000 dollars, ranking among the poorest countries. The country went through major developments during the 1960s and 1970s, a period characterized by both political authoritarianism and extensive state intervention in the economy. During that period, Seoul received massive amounts of capital through subsidies and low-interest-rate loans into trusted family-led chaebol that helped companies grow and become empires that are internationally recognized. Nevertheless, South Korea faces internal problems such as an aging population, lagging productivity in the service sector, geopolitical instability, and internal inequalities that may weaken its economic performance, especially the two economic giants, China and Japan.

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North Korea’s economy is a mystery to Western countries. They are not able to believe that an “economic corpse,” which cannot produce the simplest product, has advanced technology and is able to produce nuclear weapons. North Korea has the greatest and most deeply entrenched status and income disparities of any country in the world, due to its strong Communist principles. Back in the 1990s, North Korea was led to the outbreak of famine due to its weak economic performance and inability to address or correct it, leaving the country to reach an economic collapse. The trade deficit was extremely high, averaging about 1.2 billion dollars annually, which grew immensely over the next few years. Overall, North Korea’s unwillingness to overcome its financial collapse was evident in almost all of its attempted reforms. Today, under Kim Jong-un’s administration, the economic situation in the country seems to be relatively improved, as the state recognizes its role in practical ways. They are collecting fees from market-stall vendors and regulating their hours and operations.

South Korea is a highly populated country, with 51 million citizens living in mostly urban areas. After the transition to democracy, the socioeconomic changes that were brought reshaped the South Koreans’ worldviews and attitudes. The rise of globalization helped to modernize South Korean society and people had access to new lifestyles due to technological innovation. Most importantly, the citizens are not politically repressed and even if their government does not rate the highest when it comes to democracy, a large number of individuals belong to the middle class, which allows them to live a privileged life. Moreover, the majority of the people have been influenced by globalization, a phenomenon that bridges South Korea with Western attitudes and ideologies that help South Korea separate itself from traditional and conservative values that tend to dominate in the Asian region.

Image Rights: AFP

Unfortunately, North Korea does not follow South Korea’s path in social life. Even though countries modernize and keep up with world developments, North Korea seems to have stopped in time and moved towards a “developmental dictatorship.” Individuals in North Korea are extremely oppressed by Kim Jong-un’s government since they have never been allowed to travel outside the country’s border, nor are they permitted to browse through the Intranet (North Korea’s closed internet, limited to domestic sources of information, with no international access), but only for a limited time. Therefore, individuals have very limited knowledge of what is happening in the outside world and only gather the information that Kim Jong-un decides to promote through his own agenda.


References
  • Babson, B. “The North Korean economic system: Challenges and issues”. International Journal of Korean Studies. 20(1). 149-175.
  • Barry, M. P. “THE U.S. AND THE 1945 DIVISION OF KOREA: MISMANAGING THE ‘BIG DECISIONS’”. International Journal on World Peace. 29(4). 37–59.
  • Eberstadt, N. The North Korean economy: between crisis and catastrophe. Vol. 1.
  • Jin, K. K. “THE DEFECTOR’S TALE: Inside North Korea’s Secret Economy”. World Affairs. 174(3). 35–46.
  • McCune, G. M. “Korea: The First Year of Liberation”. Pacific Affairs. 20(1). 3–17.
  • Park, C.-M. “The Quality of Life in South Korea”. Social Indicators Research. 92(2). 263–294.
  • The political system of the Republic of Korea | Think Tank. European Parliament. Available here

 

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Phaidra Chrysostali
Phaidra Chrysostali
She was born in Athens in 2001. She holds a degree in International Relations and European Affairs from Deree University, and she is currently pursuing a dual course of study in Political Science and Public Administration at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens, specializing in European and international issues. In her leisure time, she finds joy in reading books, engaging in sports, and writing articles.