Korea is an ancient land, with shared traditions, language, and bloodlines across the peninsula.
Korea has a long history of foreign conquest and rule,1 principally by the Chinese and then
by the Japanese, most recently during the first half of the 20th century (1910-1945). Since the end of the
Second World War Korea has been divided politically and militarily, with the Democratic People’s Republic
of Korea (DPRK) in the north under the influence of the Eastern communist powers of first Russia and
then China, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south under the influence of the democratic West,
namely the United States. Following partition in 1945, both Koreas began as authoritarian states, but
the ROK gradually evolved into a capitalist democracy while the DPRK was founded as a communist
state and evolved from Marxism through Maoism to “Kimilsungism,”2 its own unique form of authoritarian
collectivism. Largely as a result of these competing influences, since 1950 Korea has been engaged and
then suspended in the longest ongoing armed conflict on the globe. Partition, war, and political ideology
have largely isolated the DPRK from much of the world, while the ROK has become a regional power
and an economic power on the world stage. As a result of the longstanding and multi-faceted relationship
between the United States and the ROK, the Korean Peninsula as a whole and the DPRK specifically are
OEs of vital interest. This vital interest has only intensified in recent years as the DPRK has pursued the
development of nuclear weapons and inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).