A History of North Korea

  • The divide

    The divide
    North Korea establishes the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with Kim Il-Sung as president.
  • Failed unity

    Hoping to unify the Koreas, North Korea invades South Korea in a surprise attack on June 25, 1950. Communist China, the UN, the U.S. and South Korea are key players in the Korean War.
  • Truce

    Ending what had become known as the Korean War, an armistice is reached on July 27, 1953.
  • Atomic weapons take center stage

    Suspicion that North Korea is developing atomic weapons begins to dominate politics in the 1990's. Korea allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct inspections. However, the agency is refused access to suspected sites of nuclear weapons production during the next two years.
  • Death of Kim Il-Sung

    Death of Kim Il-Sung
    Kim Jong-Il becomes North Korea's leader when his father, Kim Il-Sung, dies.
  • U.S. provides nuclear reactors

    The U.S. agrees to provide North Korea with two nuclear reactors designed to produce less weapons-grade plutonium.
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    Floods, drought and famine

    Nuclear discussion becomes overshadowed as famine and flood lead to the death of 2 - 3 million people. Two years of floods followed by severe droughts in 1997 and 1998 take a devastating toll on crops. Malnutrition and hunger leads thousands of North Koreans to attempt to flee to China and South Korea.
  • Scientific satellite or test missile?

    North Korea launches a test missile over Japan and says it is a scientific satellite. This act raises suspicions of nuclear weapons and production in North Korea.
  • U.S. allowed access to nuclear production site

    In exchange for increased food aid, North Korea allows the United States to inspect an alleged nuclear production site.
  • Efforts to ease tension

    Efforts to ease tension
    In an effort to ease tensions, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean President Kim Jong-Il meet for the first time at a summit in Pyongyang. Following this meeting, border liaison offices are reopened, South Korea gives amnesty to more than 3,500 prisoners, and South Korean journalists visit the North to open communication. Also, 100 North Koreans are given permission to meet relatives in the South for the first of several rounds of brief reunions.
  • "An axis of evil"

    "An axis of evil"
    Relations between North Korea and the U.S. swiftly change when President George W. Bush in a State of the Union address describes North Korea along with Iraq and Iran as "an axis of evil."
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    North Korea admits to Japanese kidnapping and violating nuclear freeze agreement

    North Korean government admits to have kidnapped about a dozen Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train them as North Korean spies and also to have violated the 1994 agreement to freeze nuclear weapons programs by continuing development. This admittance is followed by the North Korean government dismissing UN weapons inspectors from the country in December.
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    Unsuccessful Six-nation Talks

    Four rounds of six-nation talks between the U.S., North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan to discuss North Korea's intentions for nuclear weapons end inconclusively.
  • Withdrawal from Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

    North Korea officially withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferaion Treaty.
  • North Korea test-launches seven long-range missiles

  • International inspectors allowed to enter the country again

    In exchange for about $400 million in oil and aid, North Korea agrees to shut down their nuclear centers and allow international inspectors to enter the country again.
  • Trains traverse the border

    Trains traverse the border
    Trains pass through North and South Korea for the first time in 56 years.
  • Nuclear reactor at Yongbyon is shut down

    International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors verify that the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon is closed.
  • Second Inter-Korean Summit

    Second Inter-Korean Summit
    Kim Jong-Il and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun meet for a second inter-Korean summit. The leaders agree to work together on several economic projects and to formally end the Korean War.
  • North Korea hands over documentation

    North Korea hands over 18,000 pages of documents to U.S. officials on the country's nuclear efforts in 1990, 2003 and 2005. In June the country destroys a cooling tower at its main reactor in Yongbyon and turns over a list of its nuclear facilities to China.
  • Progress made in June comes to halt

    Following North Korea's complaints that the U.S. had not removed the country from a list of nations that sponsor terrorism, progress made earlier in June of that year halts. North Korea declares its plans to restart the plutonium reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and bans UN inspections.
  • Two American journalists sentenced to 12 years in prison

    Two American journalists sentenced to 12 years in prison
    American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee are sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after being arrested in March for allegedly entering North Korea illegally. In August, former U.S. President Bill Clinton visits North Korea and secures the release of the journalists.
  • Series of peacemaking gestures

    In a series of gestures, North Korea makes another effort toward peace with South Korea. The country sends several representatives to attend the funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, frees four South Korean fishermen who had been detained for a month, and agrees to resume program for family reunions that had been suspended since early 2008.
  • U.S. envoy visits Pyongyang

    U.S. envoy visits Pyongyang
    Stephen Bosworth visits Pyongyang and reaches a "common understanding" for a need to resume discussion of North Korea's nuclear program.
  • Appeal to end hostile relations with the U.S.

    Appealing to end hostile relations with the U.S., North Korea promises to work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
  • South Korean warship sinks

    South Korean warship sinks
    Once again raising tensions in the peninsula, the North allegedly sinks South Korean warship Cheonan in the Yellow Sea. Fifty-eight crew members are rescued soon after but dozens of other sailors remain unaccounted for and are believed trapped in the wreckage. In July, the U.S. announces new sanctions on North Korea in response to the sinking of the warship. The North says planned U.S.-South war games will be seen as provocation and threatens a "nuclear" response.
  • Heir apparent

    While U.S. President Obama signs new sanctions into law, North Korea offers several proposals to South Korea, including more family reunions and acceptance of flood-damage aid. At the same time, Kim Jong-Il's son Kim Jong-un is appointed to senior political and miltary posts. This further stimulates speculation that Jong-un is being prepared to succeed his father.
  • Visiting American scientist is shown nuclear weapons facility

    Stanford University professor and former director at Los Alamos National Laboratory Siegfried Hecker says that North Korean officials gave him a tour of a new and "ultra modern" facility for enriching uranium at its Yongbyon complex. This alarms and enrages Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. Days later, a cross-border clash near coastal boundaries ends in the death of two South Korean Marines.
  • Associated Press opens bureau in Pyongyang

    Associated Press opens bureau in Pyongyang
    The Associated Press announces an agreement with the Korea Central News Agency to open a news bureau in Pyongyang.
  • Kim Jong-il dies

    Kim Jong-il dies on a train at 8:30 a.m. The South Korean government and the rest of the world do not learn of the death until Monday. Little is known about his son and successor, Kim Jong-un. Media speculate about how the transition of power will affect international relations and whether the newly rooted news agencies will be able to report news of this magnitude from a country that has a reputation for secrecy.