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South Korea

Foreign Relations

Relations with North Korea

Even though the Korean War ended in a truce agreement in July 1953, a high level of tension remained between the two countries. Although North Korea presented numerous proposals for peaceful unification after signing the truce, none was premised on the notion of the continuation of the existing South Korean government, which made the proposals unacceptable to Seoul.

Throughout the Park era, relations with North Korea were marked by mutual distrust and discord, with only a brief respite between July 1972 and June 1973 when the two sides engaged in high-level negotiations. Hopes were raised that tensions might be reduced and a way toward unification of the divided nation found. Entrenched suspicions made the contentious issues separating the two sides even more difficult to solve, and the talks were broken off (see Relations with North Korea , ch. 4). Meanwhile, the armed confrontation continued (see The Threat from the North , ch. 5).

The continuing failure of the negotiations reflected the depth of the gap separating the two Koreas--particularly noteworthy in view of the mellowing international environment evidenced, for example, by China's much-improved relations with both the United States and Japan. There were indications that both China and the United States exerted considerable influence on the Korean negotiations, but without marked effect. Leaders in the north and the south found their ideologies and aims totally incompatible. South Korea's leaders were determined to keep their society free from communism, while North Korea's leaders were committed to the cause of bringing "people's democratic revolution" to the south.

Data as of June 1990