The three-year Korean War
destroyed Korea's land and economy, diminishing hopes of an independent nation.
Millions lost their homes and were separated from their families. More subtly,
the war created a cultural and regional rift that would continue to affect future
North Korea was especially devastated by the U.S.'s three-year
bombing campaign. With the North's economy nearly moribund, Kim Il Sung accepted
assistance from the Soviets and the Chinese in 1956. Specifically, the North signed
several deals with the Soviets and the Chinese covering joint nuclear research
In 1959, the U.S.S.R. and North Korea laid plans to build a nuclear
research facility near Yongbyon, about 100 km north of the capital, Pyongyang.
The Yongbyon research center opened in 1962. By 1965, with Soviet help, a two-kilowatt
nuclear research reactor was complete. It became active in 1967, according to
The Soviets and Chinese also gave North Korea
non-nuclear related financial aid and supplies to assist in rebuilding their devastated
industry and economy.
1954 and 1960, North Korea focused on reconstruction and economic development,
giving high priority to heavy industry production. Its redevelopment strategy
thrived under socialism, with its economy growing by a record 44 percent. Iron,
steel and other heavy metals industries became the areas of heaviest economic
North Korea pursued its intensive redevelopment programs throughout
the 1970s, devoting more attention to agricultural industries. By the late 1970s,
North Korea's living standards in rural areas had improved far beyond conditions
in South Korea, according to U.S. estimates in 1978.
Hostility between the
North and the South continued.
Il Sung warned his people regularly about a capitalist "March towards the
North," and received military equipment and supplies from the Soviets and
Chinese. As North Korea developed its heavy industries sector, the communist country
began building new weaponry based on designs drawn up by the Soviets and Chinese.
In July 1977, North Korea signed an agreement with the U. N. International
Atomic Energy Agency allowing the nuclear watchdog to monitor
its Soviet-supplied reactor and the nuclear research site at Yongbyon.
Under the agreement ("Type 66"), the Yongbyon reactor
was subject to international standards and controls.