Korean conflict: History of violence, failed reunification hoped to be changed by celebrated summit

Amira El-Fekki
7 Min Read

Hopes and scepticism have been sparked by the historical summit gathering the leaders of North and South Korea.

The two signed a declaration on Friday after the leaders of the two countries pledged to work on the denuclearisation of the peninsula and ending the Korean war.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday: “Korean war to end. The US, and all of its great people should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea.”

In a grand ceremony on Thursday night, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, literally crossing over the border between the two countries into the Korean demilitarised zone.

“South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air, and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict,” a reported copy of the declaration said.

The two sides further agreed to first convene military talks between their generals in May.

The agreements had already been described by South Korean officials as necessary to move forward with inter-Korean relations.

The South Korean ambassador to Egypt said the situation had been tense for North Korea’s neighbours, as well as the US, which has been pushing for a commitment to denuclearisation from North Korea.

Concerns mostly stem from a history of failed agreements between North Korea and other parties on the possession of nuclear weapons, mainly the US, as the former has also long asserted it has the right to possess nuclear weapons.

Despite North Korea’s thus far claimed commitment to denuclearisation, the country already announced, a few months ago, that it has completed its nuclear programme.

Last year witnessed diplomatic escalation between North Korean leader Kim and Trump, accompanied by a war of words, which the international community warned could turn into a real war. Tweets by Trump were considered by North Korea “a declaration of war,” a charge the US denied.

The two leaders are expected to hold a meeting While no specific schedule or location has yet been announced, the highly anticipated summit, which would be the first between a US and North Korean leader, is expected to be held in May or June. On Saturday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said his country has received no formal requests to host the meeting from either side.

Stalled political manoeuvres have marked the conflict over the years. Back in the 2000s, the US set pre-conditions for negotiations, while North Korea has also long sought guarantees in exchange for its compliance with international community demands, including the lifting of imposed sanctions.


  • 1945 – Second world war ends with surrender of Japan, leaving formerly annexed Korea divided. The 38th parallel is the line chosen by the US to demarcate the border between the north and the south
  • 15 August 1948 –The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is established, followed by the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
  • 25 June 1950 – North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union and China, invades South Korea. The UN authorises military support for South Korea, in which the US is the main participant. At least 2.5 million deaths were recorded
  • 27 July 1953 – The war ends though the signing of an armistice by US, UN, North Korean, and Chinese representatives, but not South Korea. A demilitarised zone is created; the pre-war border along the 38th parallel.
  • 1954 – A conference is held in Geneva, but no progress was made on a peace treaty
  • January 1958 – Citing protection against aggression from North Korea, Russia, and China, the US begins deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea, breaching the armistice agreement. The US would continue to do so throughout the Cold War as North Korea starts seeking countermeasures, including pursuing nuclear development.
  • 21 January 1968 – Assassination attempt on South Korean president Park Chung-hee at his residence, known as the Blue House Raid, by North Korean commandos
  • 4 July 1972 – The Republic of Korea and DPRK sign a joint statement agreeing not to possess, produce, or use nuclear weapons and prohibiting uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing
  • 15 August 1974 – Another assassination attempt on Park Chung-hee is executed as he gave a speech, which resulted in the death of his wife. The suspect is identified as a Japanese national who was a North Korea sympathiser
  • 1991 – North and South Korea become members of the UN
  • June 2000 – First inter-Korean summit since the war is held in Pyongyang. North-South Joint Declaration is signed, aiming at working towards Korean reunification
  • 2003 – North Korea is no longer part of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
  • 9 October 2006 – North Korea conducts first underground nuclear test. In the next two years, it agrees to shut down its main reactor, but prevents inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency
  • October 2007 – Second inter-Korean summit is held in Pyongyang
  • 25 May 2009 – North Korea implements second nuclear test along with a short-range missile test. The same year, the UN adopts Resolution 1874 imposing economic and commercial sanctions on North Korea
  • 6 January 2016 – North Korean government announces hydrogen bomb tests after reports of earthquake
  • February 2017 – China, the main trade partner of North Korea, halts coal imports from the latter
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Journalist in DNE's politics section, focusing on human rights, laws and legislations, press freedom, among other local political issues.
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