After Japan surrenders and World War II ends, Korea is divided along the 38th parallel into the Soviet-backed North and U.S.-sponsored South.
The Republic of Korea (in the South) is established with Syngman Rhee as president; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (in the North) is created with Kim Il Sung as prime minister. The two provincial governments, competing for control of the peninsula, sporadically attack each other at the border.
North Korean troops cross the 38th parallel and capture Seoul. The Korean War begins. Gen. Douglas MacArthur becomes commander of U.N. forces in support of the South, and China enters the war on the North's side.
After two years of peace negotiations during which time fighting continues, a cease-fire is called, ending the Korean War. A heavily fortified demilitarized zone runs along the border between the North and the South.
The South Korean government allows trade with North Korea.
North and South Korea join the United Nations.
At a historic, three-day summit in Pyongyang, North and South Korean leaders agree to work toward reunification and reunite families separated by war.
North Korea expels nuclear weapons inspectors and in early 2003 backs out of a key nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
A second Inter-Korean summit results in a declaration to improve relations; North Korea agrees to disable its nuclear reactor and provide full details of its nuclear program.