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North Korea: Hangover of the 20th Century


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North Korea is often portrayed as a 'rogue state' and 'unpredictable' but like any other state it has a history which has to be taken into account to make sense of its present. Throughout the 20th century, Northern Korea has been on the front lines between empires, and between imperialists and liberators. The end of the Cold War globally has not solved the Korean separation the way it solved the German one, though the ideological rhetoric has changed. North Korean leadership invokes this history regularly to explain and justify its positions, and this has to be taken seriously in any analysis of North Korea's 21st century development.

Along with Imperialisms past and present, North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs are offshoots of 20th century processes of proliferation, in which weapons technology passed from state to state, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. Perhaps more importantly, North Korea is drawing on the experience of disarmament over the last 25 years, a process that has not always gone well for states that surrender their nuclear weapons capacity.

All this is true, but perhaps more importantly, it appears to be the foundation of the North Korean understanding of how we got to this point, and what matters in this moment: regime survival in the face of multiple hostile controlling empires. We are historical beings, etc.

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North Korea: Hangover of the 20th Century

  1. 1. North Korea: Hangover of the 20th Century Jonathan Dresner Pittsburg State University 2017 Korea Semester Missouri Southern State University
  2. 2. Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895
  3. 3. Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905
  4. 4. Japanese Colonial Territories and Spheres of Influence, 1895-1912 Taiwan: 1895: Treaty of Shimonoseki 1898: Fujien region Commercial Treaty Korea: 1904: First Japan-Korea Treaty 1905: Second Japan-Korea Treaty (Protectorate) 1907: Third Japan-Korea Treaty (Internal Administration and Military Disbandment) 1910: Korean Unification Agreement Liaodong Peninsula 1905: Portsmouth Treaty 1905: Sino-Japanese Portsmouth Treaty Confirmation Agreement Manchuria 1907: First Japan-Russia Treaty 1912: Third Japan-Russia Treaty Sakhalin
  5. 5. Kim Il Sung, 1912-1994 Kim Jong Il, 1941-2011 Kim Jong Un, 1984-present
  6. 6. Nuclear Proliferation
  7. 7. Select Sources • Yamakawa Nihonshi Sogo Zuroku [Japanese History Maps and Charts Omnibus], 1985 • Nuclear Proliferation Map from New Scientist • Kyung Moon Hwang, A History of Korea: An episodic narrative, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. • Hyung Gu Lynn. Bipolar orders: the two Koreas since 1989. Zed Books, 2007. • Contemporary Korea map from U Texas Perry- Castaneda Collection • Kim family tree from Time. 24 February 2017. • Asia map from Nations Online Project