An Overview of South Korea's North Korea Policy
An Overview of South Korea's North Korea Policy
Background Koreans claim a history that goes back 5000 years, despite invasions, at one time or another, by all of its neighbors. Japan sought control of Korea at the end of the 19th century, and in 1900 Japan and Russia discussed dividing their interests in Korea at the 38th parallel. In July 1904 Japanese Prime Minister Katsura Taro and US Secretary of War William Taft had a meeting, captured in the "Taft-Katsura Memorandum," in which Japan tacitly accepted the U.S. sphere of influence in the Philippines and the United States tacitly accepted Japan's interest in Korea. When the Russo-Japanese war was concluded in September 1905 with the Treaty of Portsmouth, Russia also recognized Japan's interest in Korea, paving the way for Japan to annex the Korean Peninsula in 1910. Japan remained in Korea as an occupying force until its surrender to the allied forces on August 15, 1945.
Post WWII and the Korean War After WWII, the USSR and the United States agreed to a temporary division of the Korean Peninsula at the 38th parallel until a provisional government could be established and independence restored. Instead, war between the two Koreas broke out in June 1950, with the USSR and China joining the North Korean side and the United States and 15 UN nations joining the South Korean side in a military action authorized by UN Resolution 84.
The brutality of the war - over a million lives were lost, over 30,000 of them American -created a deep enmity between the halves of the peninsula, known since 1948 as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south. Each country's constitution claims the whole peninsula, and promotes reunification as an urgent objective. Peace negotiations began in 1951 despite continuing hostiles. Negotiations over the border, exchange of prisoners and other matters ended with the signing of an armistice on July 27, 1953, establishing a cease-fire but leaving many issues, such as a maritime border, unresolved.
Post Korean War Although South Korea made remarkable economic achievements under a military dictatorship, there were limitations on freedoms of speech and the press. South Korea's National Security Law declares that challenges to the government and positive statements about communism are illegal. The law outlawed interaction with North Koreans and visits to North Korea, even for family members separated by the war. Meanwhile, North Koreans belittled South Koreans as "puppets" of the U.S. government, claiming both an economic and moral superiority over the South. A movement in the ROK emerged that fought for democracy in the South and then, as its leaders came into power in the late 1990s, promoted reconciliation with the North.
Warming Relations: The Sunshine Policy When Kim Dae Jung, a South Korean democracy activist, became President of South Korea in 1998, he instituted the "Sunshine Policy" to promote reconciliation with the DPRK. In June 2000 Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il met in Pyongyang, the first summit since the countries were established. The “June Summit” had a powerful effect in the ROK. South Koreans expressed delight that North Koreans were "just like us" and South Korean NGOs and church groups began regular contacts with the DPRK that had been outlawed for half a century. The two countries made an agreement for the Hyundai Corporation to run tours to Mt. Geumgang in North Korea. Kim Dae Jung also negotiated with the North to establish the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) just over the DMZ as a part of the two Korea’s economic cooperation. Roh Moo Hyun, elected President of the ROK in 2002, continued reconciliation efforts under the “Policy for Peace and Prosperity,” intensifying engagement with North Korea through increased humanitarian assistance as well as substantial government-sponsored investment in the KIC.
Cooling Relations: The 2006 Missile and Nuclear Tests On July 5, 2006, North Korea tested an array of ballistic missiles. In response, the UNSC adopted UNSCR 1695. Three months later, the DPRK conducted a nuclear test for the first time. This time the UNSC adopted UNSCR 1718. The South Korean National Assembly decreased government spending on inter-Korean cooperation projects from 650 billion won ($693 million) to 500 billion won ($530 million), reflecting shifting public opinion in South Korea.
Although the ROK temporarily suspended fertilizer and food shipments after the 2006 tests, investment in the KIC continued. President Roh and Kim Jong Il met for a second Inter-Korean summit in October 2007, and signed the “Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity,” which outlined multiple inter-Korean economic development projects, such as creation of a West Sea Economic Center in Haeju.
Lee Myung-Bak and a New Era of Inter-Korean Relations The inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak on February 25, 2008 heralded a change in the ROK's North Korea policy. Before taking office, Lee indicated that South Korea would take “pragmatic” approach towards North Korea. Lee’s "Initiative for Denuclearization and Opening up North Korea" promised US$3,000 per capita income for North Korea-contingent on the DPRK abandoning its nuclear program. Lee promised to address POW and abductee issues and to vote for a UN resolution criticizing North Korean human rights violations.
On July 12, 2008, a South Korean tourist who walked into a restricted zone at Mt. Geumgang was shot and killed by a Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldier. President Lee expressed the South’s willingness to work with the North at his presidential speech later that day. However, although, North Korea expressed regret, they did not allow the joint investigation requested by the ROK. Since this incident, all tourism to Mt. Geumgang has been suspended.
The DPRK slowed down and at times suspended the DMZ border-crossings into Kaesong, making it difficult for factories to meet production deadlines. On January 30, 2009 North Korea officially "nullified" all past inter-Korean agreements. On April 5, 2009, North Korea launched the three-stage Unha-2 rocket and announced they had launched a satellite. The Unha-2 is widely believed to be a modified version of its long-range Taepo Dong-2 ballistic missile, and the launch was there condemned by the United Nations. The DPRK conducted its second underground nuclear test on May 25, 2009 and the UNSC adopted UNSCR 1874 in response.
On November 10, 2009, the South Korean Navy fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol boat that crossed over the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a defacto maritime boundary established by UN military forces in 1953. The NLL is disputed by the DPRK. The North’s patrol boat fired approximately 50 shells at the ROK ship Chamsuri-336, and the South Korean military immediately returned fire. Soon after, the North’s severely damaged boat retreated north of the NLL. 
Cheonan Sinking On March 26, 2010, a South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, sank after an explosion; 46 South Korean navy seamen died. The ROK convened the “Joint Investigation Group (JIG), an international team including the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Sweden. The JIG report released an interim report on May 20, 2010. Based on the report, the South Korean government stated that the Cheonan was sunk by a torpedo, and that “the evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine. There is no other plausible explanation.” North Korea refuted the report the same day, saying “The group of traitors had far-fetchedly tried to link the case with us without offering any material evidence.” The JIG Report was not universally accepted in South Korea; one contemporary survey found that over a third of South Koreans believed the report did not prove conclusively that the Cheonan was sunk by North Korea. China did not take a clear stand: they acknowledged both the report and North Korea’s denial, a stance echoed in the UN Security Council Presidential July 9 statement on the sinking. A Russian team investigated the incident, but made no official statement.
On May 24, 2010, President Lee announced several measures in response to the presumed attack: the ROK would prohibit North Korean ships from using shipping lanes that crossed ROK territory, and suspend all inter-Korean trade and exchanges outside of the Kaesong Industrial Park. In addition, he announced new military exercises to strengthen ROK-US joint combat readiness. He also urged North Korean authorities to apologize to the ROK and the international community and to “punish those who are responsible for and those who were involved in the incident.”
The United States and the ROK carried out large scale joint naval exercise between July 25 and July 28, 2010 “designed to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop.” Significantly, Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF) had an authorization to observe the drill for the first time. Four maritime JSDF officers observed the joint naval exercise aboard the nuclear-powered super carrier USS George Washington in the East Sea, the first time JSDF had participated in exercises so close to the Korean Peninsula. The day before the training, the DPRK accused the joint military training of “dangerous military move to ignite a new war on the Korean Peninsula,” however; the drill was conducted as scheduled without any further response from the DPRK.
Yeonpyeong Shelling On November 23, 2010, the ROK conducted live-fire military exercises near the NLL. According to KCNA, North Korea warned the ROK not to fire “inside the territorial waters of the DPRK,” rejecting the legitimacy of the NLL and referring to its own maritime demarcation line. The ROK, which says none of their shots crossed the NLL, continued the exercises.  The Korean People’s Army fired around 170 artillery shells at Yeonpyeong Island, one of the ROK islands closet to the line. This resulted in the deaths of two South Korean Marines and two civilians. The ROK fired back approximately 80 shells; North Korea did not announce any casualties. The next day, the DPRK Foreign Ministry blamed South Korea, saying that the shelling was a “self-defensive measure.” On November 29 President Lee referred to North Korea’s killing civilians as a “crime against humanity,” and pledged that the DPRK will pay “a dear price without fail” if it commits “any additional provocations.”
In response to the attack, the ROK raised its non-wartime security alert to the highest level, canceled Red Cross meeting scheduled two days later, and suspended consideration of the applications from South Korean NGOs to send humanitarian aid to North Korea. Later, the South Korean Defense Ministry reformed its rules of engagement to allow the South Korean military to respond more quickly and forcefully to future North Korean attacks. South Korea and the United States also stepped up joint military exercises, including exercises to the west of the island with the USS George Washington. The DPRK accused the United States and the ROK of “escalating confrontation and tension through ceaseless moves to ignite a war, seriously disturbing peace and security on the Korean Peninsula,” and warned that if the U.S. and the ROK proceed with the annual joint military exercise Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, it would turn Seoul “sea of flames.” However, the joint military exercises were conducted as scheduled, and there was no North Korean response.
Aftermath of 2010 After the sinking of the Cheonan, the ROK said that neither talks nor humanitarian assistance can resume until the DPRK apologizes. After the Yeonpyeong shelling, the ROK requested an apology for these deaths as well. However, from February 8-9 2011, inter-Korea colonel-level military talks were held in Panmunjom. The talks ended abruptly; each delegation blames the other for walking out of the room. On May 9, 2011 during a press conference in Berlin, President Lee announced that South Korea is willing to invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the March 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul if the North “firmly agrees with the international community to denuclearize.” North Korea rebuffed the invitation, saying that demanding nuclear dismantlement as a precondition for dialogue is “no more than a ridiculous attempt to disarm the DPRK and realize the ambition for invading it in collusion with the U.S.”
On May 31, the DPRK announced that it would never “deal with” the Lee Myung-bak Administration. The following day North Korea disclosed that the two Koreas had met secretly in an attempt to find an agreement on the wording of a North Korean apology acceptable to both sides and to plan for an inter-Korean summit meeting. The DPRK also claimed that South Korean government officials “showed off enveloped money to lure someone but suffered shame.” The South Korea Ministry Unification at first did not respond to the accusation, but eventually Unification Minister Hyun In-taek admitted to the secret meeting although denying discussion of a summit meeting. 
As the time of this issue brief update, the ROK has again attempted to restart inter-Korean talks, suggesting separating the issue of an apology for the 2010 incidents from other issues, but the DPRK has rejected this overture. Sequencing (the order of the first inter-Korean talks, the first U.S./DPRK bilateral talks and the first round of Six Party Talks) remains a key concern for all parties.
Last Updated July 21, 2011
 Gaeseong Industrial Complex (GIC) and Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) refer to the same thing; the use of Kaesong/KIS is more wide-speard.
 Construction at Kaesong began after Kim Dae Jung left office, in 2003.
 For more information, see “NCNK Issue Brief: An Overview of North Korea’s Ballistic Missiles,” available at http://www.ncnk.org/resources/briefing-papers/all-briefing-papers/an-overview-of-north-korea-s-ballistic-missiles
 For more information, see “NCNK Issue Brief:United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718,” available at http://www.ncnk.org/resources/publications/NCN_%20Issue%20Brief_UNSCR_1718.doc/file_view
 An Overview of North Korea’s Ballistic Missiles Program, op. cited.
 See "NCNK Issue Brief: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718," op. cited.
 “Korea Policy Review” p. 6 (Accessed at: www.kccla.org/download_/download_.asp?filename=2008165113-1.pdf)
 KCNA, “South Side to Blame for
Incident at Mt.Kumgang Resort” July 12, 2008.
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2008/200807/news07/14.htm#1)
 The Committee for the Peaceful
Reunification of the Fatherland (CPRF) statement referred to the two summit
accords from 2000 and 2007 and the 1991 Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Cooperation
and Exchange. North Korea Scrapping Accords With South Korea
(Accessed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/world/asia/30nkorea.html)
 The Taepodong-2 or Paketusan-2 is believed to be a two- or three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) (Accessed at: http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/td-2.htm)
 An Overview of North Korea’s Ballistic Missiles Program, op. cited.
 For more information, see “NCNK Issue Brief: DPRK Nuclear Weapons Program,” available at http://www.ncnk.org/resources/briefing-papers/all-briefing-papers/dprk-nuclear-weapons-program#_edn23
 Terence Roehrig, "Korean
Dispute over the Northern Limit Line: Security, Economics or International
p. 7. Accessed on July 12, 2011 at http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1193&context=mscas&sei-redir=1#search=%22Terence%20roehrig%20northern%20limit%20line%22,
 ROK Ministry of Defense 2010 White Paper. p.320 (Accessed at: http://www.mnd.go.kr/cms_file/info/mndpaper/2010/2010WhitePaperAll_eng.pdf)
 The Joint Civilian-Military
Investigation Group, “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS
May 20, 2010. p.5 (Accessed at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/20_05_10jigreport.pdf)
(Ministry of National Defense Republic of Korea, “Joint Investigation Final Report; On the Attack Against ROK Ship Cheonan” Sep. 13, 2010. (Accessed at: http://www.nautilus.org/publications/essays/napsnet/reports/Cheonan.pdf)
16. KCNA, “National Defence Commission Issues Statement on KCNA” May 20,
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2010/201005/news20/20100520-04ee.html)
 Chosun Ilbo, “Most S.Koreans
Skeptical About Cheonan Findings, Survey Shows” Sep. 2010.
(Accessed at: http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/09/08/2010090800979.html)
 Chinese Foreign Ministry, “Foreign
Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang's Statement on UN Security Council's
Presidential Statement on the Cheonan Incident” July 9, 2010.
(Accessed at: http://www.mfa.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2535/t715389.htm)
 The Hindu, “Russian probe undercuts
Cheonan sinking theory” June 9, 2010.
(Accessed at: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article450117.ece)
 Council on Foreign Relations, “South
Korean President Lee's National Address” May 24, 2010.
(Accessed at: http://www.cfr.org/north-korea/south-korean-president-lees-national-address-may-2010/p22199)
“US-Korean Defense Leaders Announce Exercise Invincible Spirit”
(Accessed at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=60074)
 KCNA, “KCNA Blasts Projected Joint
Military Maneuvers” July 24, 2010.
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2010/201007/news24/20100724-13ee.html)
 KCNA, “KPA Supreme Command Issues Communiqué,” November 23, 2010
(Accessed at http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2010/201011/news23/20101123-19ee.html on July 21, 2011.)
 Nan Kim, “Korea on the Brink: Reading the
Yeonpyeong Shelling and its Aftermath,” p.346-347
(Accessed at: http://uwm.academia.edu/NanKim/Papers/737853/Korea_on_the_Brink_Reading_the_
 KCNA,“Statement Released by
Spokesman of DPRK Foreign Ministry” November 24, 2010.
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2010/201011/news24/20101124-17ee.html)
 President Lee’s address on shelling
of Yeonpyeongdo by North
(Accessed at: http://english.president.go.kr/pre_activity/speeches/speeches_view.php?uno=4391&board_no=E03&search_key=&search_value=&search_cate_code=&cur_page_no=3)
 Chosun Ilbo, “Gov't Promises Tougher
Rules of Engagement” December 1, 2010.
(Accessed at http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/12/01/2010120100569.html)
 Comparative Connections Vol.12, No.4. op. cited p. 25
 KCNA, “US-S.Korea Wholly to Blame
for Escalated Tension and Danger of War” November 29, 2010.
(Accessed at http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2010/201011/news29/20101129-09ee.html)
 KCNA, “KPA Mission
Statement on US-S.Korea Joint Military Exercises” February 27, 2011.
(Accessed at http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201102/news27/20110227-24ee.html)
 Ariring News, “Pres.Lee Arrives in Frankfurt, Germany.”
May 10, 2011.
(Accessed at: http://english.president.go.kr/government/arirang/anews_view.php?uno=5038&board_no=E09&search_key=&search_value=&search_cate_code=&cur_page_no=3)
 KCNA, “CPRK Denounces Lee Myung
Bak’s Provocative Remarks against DPRK” May 11, 2011.
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news11/20110511-31ee.html)
KCNA, “DPRK Will Not Deal with Lee Myung Bak” May 30, 2011.
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201105/news30/20110530-19ee.html)
 KCNA, “Lee Myung Bak Group Can Never Evade Responsibility for Bringing Inter-Korean Relations to Collapse” June 1, 2011. (Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201106/news01/20110601-29ee.html)
 Ministry of Unification press
release on June 1, 2011. (Accessed at: http://eng.unikorea.go.kr/eng/default.jsp?
 Yonhap News, “South Korea Admits It
Held Secret Talks with N.Korea” June 2, 2011.
(Accessed at: http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/news/2011/06/02/0200000000AEN20110602007000315.HTML)
 Donga Ilbo, “Seoul to Separate Ship Sinking from
Denuclearization Project” June 21, 2011.
(Accessed at: http://english.donga.com/srv/service.php3?biid=2011062197418)
 KCNA, “Sinister Aim Sought by Lee
Myung Bak Group through Its Remarks Disclosed.” June 28, 2011.
(Accessed at: http://www.kcna.co.jp/item/2011/201106/news28/20110628-22ee.html)