North and South Koreas start talking

On June 9, government officials from North Korea and South Korea met for the first time after about two years to discuss how they can resolve some of their differences. They met in a village called Panmunjom, which is on the border between the two countries. North and South Korea have not been getting along. Their relationship has been getting worse over the last couple of years. There have even been talks of a war. In April, North Korea threatened to attack South Korea, and South Korea started getting its army ready in case there was an attack. No war has taken place, but the tension between the two countries has been very high.

North and South Korea were part of a single country called Korea for over four thousand years. In 1910, the Japanese occupied Korea and ruled it until the Second World War. When the war ended in 1945, the Japanese had to give up control of Korea. Korea was then occupied by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. A line in the middle (called the 38th Parallel since it was at the latitude 38 degrees north) was drawn and two countries, North and South Korea, were created in 1948. After the two countries were created, North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950, starting the three year Korean war. After the war ended, the border between North and South Korea became the most guarded border in the world, and the two countries have evolved very differently from each other.

North Korea has been led by people from the same family since it was founded. Kim Jong-un is the current leader, and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and father, Kim Jong-il, were the leaders before him. The North Korean government very strictly controls many aspects of its citizens’ lives. There isn’t much communication between North Korea and the rest of the world. South Korea is democratic. The citizens of the country have a very high standard of living, and South Koreans are one of the world’s most hi-tech people.

After the war between the two Koreas ended in 1953, there was no friendly communication between them for many years. In the 1990s, the two countries started programs to become more friendly. When the two Koreas were created, some families got split up. In 2000, the first family reunion was held allowing some families to reconnect. The last reunion was in 2010.

In 2003, the two countries started a factory project in an area called Kaesong, which is located in North Korea near the border between the two. South Koreans built factories in Kaesong and employed over 50,000 North Koreans to work there. In April, North Korea shut the factories down.

At the June 9th meeting, some issues the two countries decided to focus on were starting family reunions and reopening factories in Kaesong. However, future talks are now on hold since the two countries couldn’t agree on who from their governments should lead the conversations.

Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea, and Seoul is the capital of South Korea. Korean is the official language of both the Koreas. The Korean alphabet is called Hangul, which consists of 24 vowels and consonants. A popular Korean dish is bibimbap (see image), a rice dish with different vegetables, meats, egg, and chilli paste on top. Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that originates from Korea. Hanbok (see image) is a traditional dress of Korea.

Did you know?

The official home of the president of South Korea is called the Blue House (see image), and is located in Seoul.

Did you know?

Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung have flowers named after them called Kimilsungia (a type of orchid) and Kimjongilia (a type of begonia).

Image Credits: abex for bibimbap’s image,  korea.net for people wearing Hanbok image,  http://www.president.go.kr for the Blue House’s image

Sources: BBC, New York Times, http://www.redcross.or.kr/eng/eng_activity/activity_interkorean.do, http://www.president.go.kr