History of North Korea

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The history of North Korea formally begins with the establishment of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1948.

In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea which ended with Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel in accordance with a United Nations arrangement, to be administered by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. The Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of separate governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea.

Contents

The early years

Having occupied Najin and Ch’ŏngjin on 12 August 1945, the Soviets moved into Wonsan and Hamhŭng on 24 August and P’yŏngyang during 24–26 August, sending troops directly into each of the provinces. Chistiakov, commander of the Soviet 25th Army arrived in Hamhŭng on 24 August and in accordance with his orders from the headquarters of the 1st Field Army of the Far Eastern Division he opened negotiations with the provincial governor and other Japanese leaders of the provincial government about taking over administration of the province. The content of their agreement was as follows:

If anyone, whether they are Japanese or Korean, leaves their post, they will immediately be sentenced to death by hanging. … For the time being, the Japanese police and military police will maintain order and administrative functions will continue to be carried out as before by the Japanese provincial governor and his subordinates. Those who cause disturbances of the peace will be severely punished. … Work should continue in factories, workshops, mines etc., and goods must not be removed from these workplaces.

This agreement was published in the Soviet Army’s decree of 25 August. This decree, which stressed the continuation of Japanese administrative and security control, was the Soviet command’s first official position revealing their policy toward the Korean peninsula. However, before a day had passed this decree was cancelled. Song Sŏnggwan, Ch’oe Kimo, Im Ch’ungsŏk and Kim Inhak, members of the South Hamgyŏng Province Communist Council as well as To Yongho and Ch’oe Myŏnghak, leaders of the South Hamgyŏng Province branch of the Committee for the Preparation of Korean Independence had visited Chistiakov, informing him that a ‘South Hamgyŏng Executive Committee’ had been formed and requesting that authority for administration be transferred to this committee. Chistiakov cancelled the decree and announced that, “this Executive Committee will manage all administrative and security affairs, under the command of the Soviet Army.”

Earlier, Kim Il-Sung had arrived in North Korea on August 22 after 26 years in exile. In September 1945, Kim was installed by the Soviets as head of the Provisional People’s Committee. He was not, at this time, the head of the Communist Party, whose headquarters were in Seoul in the U.S.-occupied south.

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