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Korea, before 1950





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Korea, before 1950

Until August 15th, 1945, the independence day, Korea goes through the phase of Japanese rule, begining from August 29th, 1910. The imperial ambition of Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea provides the major cause of Russo-Japanese War, which the Russian Empire had to request a peace treaty for their utter defeat. The treaty was called the Treaty of Portsmouth and it was signed in September 5th, 1905, with the presence of representatives of United States, Russia, and Japan.[1] During the Portsmouth Conference, Russian delegation had to accept Japan’s colonial domination over Korean Peninsula,[2] and Japan manages to gain the solitary control over Korea.

Despite numerous objections to Japan from Korea, the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was signed in 1910, and Korea becomes a colony of Japan.[3] Japanese Empire claimed that they are establishing economic progress for the Koreans under their regime. However, what Japan had actually done was, they “stuck a knife in old Korea and twisted it, and that wound has gnawed at the Korean national identity ever since.”[4]

As the Second World War began on the year of 1939, colonized Korea became a part of the Empire of Japan along with Taiwan, and Japanese used Korea’s food and livestock to maintain the war. As the war progressed, the power of Japanese Empire began to descend and the leaders of the United States, USSR, Republic of China, and United Kingdom held a conference in Cairo on November 1943, to address their decision against Japan. The Cairo Declaration stated the foreign powers’ intention of using military force against Japan until the Japanese army’s surrender, and while doing so they have also declared, “in due course, Korea shall become independent.”[5] When Japan continued their offensive posture, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Couple of days after the first bomb, USSR declared war on Japan and led the Red Army to the northern Korea and Manchuria.[6] To this, the US responded by directing a demilitarization line - the 38th parallel - on the peninsula with the agreement of USSR, as they thought it was essential to have an arrangement on the occupation zone of Korea.[7]


As a consequent of Japanese surrender and the closing of World War Two, Korean nationalists who gathered with common hatred of Japan sought their way to establish an independent government of Korea.[8] The two most prominent leaders during this era were Kim Il-Sung and Syng-Man Rhee. Kim Il-Sung was a soldier in the Soviet army during a fight near the Manchurian border. When he returned to Korea he became a core of the northern Korea’s high command, and ultimately was appointed as the chairman of government of North Korea by the USSR.[9] Unlike Kim, Syng-Man Rhee studied in the United States, obtaining B.A. degrees from George Washington and Harvard University, and Ph.D. from Princeton. He returned to Korean in 1910 and represented the democratic council, presenting contradicting opinions from Kim for the Korean leadership. He desired to make Korea a nation free from any intervention of USSR or United States. The emergence of two opposing leaders in Korean Peninsula become the start of the civil war and a cause for the origins of the Korean War. The division of a Korean nation that began in 1945 ultimately becomes a stalemate and the split still continues today.



Connaughton, p. 272; "Text of Treaty; Signed by the Emperor of Japan and Czar of Russia," New York Times. October 17, 1905.

P.512; The tide at sunrise: a history of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, by Denis Ashton Warner, Peggy Warner, Routledge, 2002


Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History (New York: Norton, 1997), p140

"Cairo Communique, December 1, 1943". Japan National Diet Library. December 1, 1943

R. Whelan Drawing the Line: the Korean War 1950–53; London (1990) p. 22.

Lee, Kenneth B. Korea and East Asia: The Story of a Phoenix, (London: Praeger Publishers, 1997), 183-4

Richard Peters and Xiaobing Li, Voices from the Korean War: Personal Stories of American, Korean, and Chinese Soldiers, University Press of Kentucky, 2005, p.3

Richard Peters and Xiaobing Li, Voices from the Korean War: Personal Stories of American, Korean, and Chinese Soldiers, University Press of Kentucky, 2005, p.4

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