Coming Together: Three experts analyze the North-South Korea summit and its results. (06/14/00)
Historic Handshake: Coverage of the first day of the summit. (06/13/00)
Breaking the Ice: A discussion about the upcoming meeting. (04/10/00)
Combating Famine An update on the starvation problem in North Korea. (04/30/98)
North Korean Weapons Federation of American Scientists' guide to North Korean special weapons.
On October 13, South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on reconciliation with Communist North Korea. This story was written before the Two Koreas Summit in June, 2000.
You might have seen an old re-run of M*A*S*H on late-night T.V. M*A*S*H, which stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, was a TV show about the life of doctors, nurses and soldiers in the 4077th M*A*S*H unit in the Korean War.
The series is well known, but the Korean War is one of the lesser known conflicts in which the United States has been involved.
And the war isn't over-- North and South Korea are still technically at war. On May 12, leaders of North and South Korea will make history when they meet in the first summit ever between the leaders of the strip of land called the Korean peninsula. Click on the map to see the Asian region.
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il for three days in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital.
Observers hope the summit marks a turning point in relations between North and South, whose armies face each other across one of the most intensely fortified borders in the world.
Korea was occupied by Japan until the end of World War II.
After World War II, Korea was divided. North Korea became communist, meaning the government controlled land, wealth and industry. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea, which was allied with several democratic countries. Fearing the spread of communism, the U.S. helped South Korea fight the North.
Other countries were also involved. British, Australian, and Philippine soldiers fought alongside the South Korean army.
After three years of brutal war, the two sides worked out an armistice-- a temporary cease-fire agreement-- on July 27, 1953. The front line was accepted as the boundary between North and South Korea.
The armistice called for an international conference to find a political solution to the problem of Korea's division. This conference met in Geneva, Switzerland in April 1954 but, after seven weeks of futile debate, ended without agreement or progress.
A peace treaty has never been agreed upon.
The Korean War resulted in the deaths of about 1,300,000 South Koreans, many of whom were civilians; 1,000,000 Chinese; 500,000 North Koreans; and about 54,000 Americans, with much smaller numbers of British, Australian, and Turkish casualties on the Allied side.
When the Soviet Union backed away from North Korea in the 1950s, North Korea's government introduced a program intended to move the communist country towards "self-reliance" or Juche.
The program was somewhat successful but the 1970s hit hard-- a combination of higher oil prices and a growing technology gap made self-reliance a difficult strategy.
The North Korean government did not change the country's form of communism to meet the challenge. Instead, the government stuck to its rigid state-controlled system.
In 1980, the country could not pay back most of the money borrowed from other countries. Still, North Korea refused to open the country to foreign investment or allow private enterprise.
Because of the country's tense standoff with South Korea, military spending has always been a drain on the country's finances.
North Korea has been largely dependent on outside aid to feed its 24 million people since 1995, when its farm industry collapsed after years of bad weather and mismanagement. North Korea said recently that drought and high temperature were ruining crops in all parts of the country again this year.
Estimates vary as to the number of people who have died over the last three years as a result of the famine. U.S. congressman Tony Hall, who has visited North Korea, estimates that two million people are believed to have died of starvation in North Korea since 1995. The North Korean government says only 220,000 people have died from famine. No one outside of North Korea knows for sure.
North Korea is largely off- limits to most foreigners. It's on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Little is known of its leader, Kim Jong IL, who assumed office after his father died in 1994.
Meanwhile South Korea has become one of the world's most successful economies and a leading maker of ships, steel, cars and other products.
North Korea's nuclear weapons are of great concern to the U.S.
When North Korea announced that it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1993, the rest of the world feared the country was busy developing nuclear weapons to use against the South.
Korea says they're just interested in using nuclear energy as a source of power-- not as a weapon.
After months of tension North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for two new nuclear power reactors to be built by the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.
That deal has been complicated by concerns about North Korea's development of ballistic missiles. Its new Taepo-dong 1 missile is said to have a range of about 1000 miles-- putting all of Japan within its sights.
A later version of the missile is said to have twice the range, which means North Korea could bomb countries as far away as India.
The U.S. suspects the country has resumed nuclear activity from time to time. Satellite photographs are said to show thousands of workers digging into a mountainside near Yongbyon, the site of a North Korean nuclear reactor which has been frozen under an agreement with the United States.
Also on the Agenda
At the summit, North Korea may raise the issue of the U.S. military presence in South Korea. The Korean border is the world's most heavily armed, with nearly 2 million troops deployed on both sides.
Another topic will be South
Korea's possible financial aid to help rebuild North Korea's
Many observers ultimately expect the Korean peninsula to be reunified, as East and West Germany were. While unification will certainly not be on the official agenda, the subject of unification will be lurking in the background.
Most of all, observers are hopeful simply because the two sides are meeting face to face. The Korean peninsula is thought to be one of the world's most likely flash points for a major war. It's hoped this summit is a step toward bringing a peace that lasts.
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