What are the countries bordering North Korea

Originated from the Cold War: 60 years of North Korea

The Korean peninsula towards the end of World War II: the country, a Japanese colony since 1910, has been conquered by the occupiers. Around two million Japanese soldiers are in the neighboring Manchuria, which is also occupied by Japan. When the US atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, it was clear that Japan would capitulate to the United States. But before that happens, Stalin creates facts in the Japanese-occupied territories. "On the night the Japanese emperor surrendered, Stalin's troops shot into Manchuria and managed to bring Manchuria under their control in 12 days," says Jörg Friedruch, East Asia expert and author of the book "Yalu. An den Shores of the Third World War ". "Stalin's troops also advanced into this corner of Korea and nobody could have stopped them."

Division of the country at the 38th parallel

The US troops were emaciated from the conquest of the Japanese islands and had no formations in Korea. The USA therefore tried to contain the Russian military advance with a political solution. They agreed with Stalin to divide Korea along the 38th parallel and put the north under Soviet and the south under US administration. According to the declaration, Korea should ultimately be reunified and independent. When and how, the great powers initially had no answer.

A North Korean farmer who fled was led behind the battle line in early August 1950

It was a situation like in divided Berlin, says Friedrich: "We had the technical agreement, we share responsibility and we regulate the reunification of Germany and Korea. De facto, however, we were in the boat opposite to each other."

The dividing line becomes the system boundary

In the years to come, the demarcation line at the 38th parallel became a system boundary - with a south that was under US military rule and a north that established communist structures.

Then, in the fall of 1947, the United States brought the Korean question to the United Nations. They hoped for a solution from the UN, which eventually passed a resolution. Free elections and a government should be held in Korea. Then the occupation troops should leave the country again.

Kim Il Sung (l) signs the armistice agreement in Pyongyang in 1953

But the rift between the two blocks was already insurmountable. The elections in 1948 were therefore only held in the south, whereupon the Republic of Korea was proclaimed on August 15. The North reacted promptly: On September 9, 1948, Kim Il-sung proclaimed the People's Democratic Republic of North Korea - supported by Big Brother in Moscow. "Kim Il-sung was an officer in the Soviet Army, had lived in Siberia for years and had Soviet military and officer training," says Friedrich. "In other words, it was Stalin's deputies who proclaimed this state."

Bloody Korean War

But the proclamation of the two states did not fully consolidate power. Two years later, on June 25, 1950, North Korean troops marched beyond the 38th parallel and invaded the south. For three years the USA on the one hand and the then Soviet Union and China on the other hand fought a bitter struggle on Korean soil.

It wasn't just about power in Korea. Rather, it was a war between two systems: In this experience of being the battlefield for a proxy war, North Korea expert Sebastian Harnisch from the University of Heidelberg sees an essential reason why North Korea sticks to the idea to this day, autark and from other countries to be independent. And that it does not want to allow anyone to interfere with its nuclear program either.