North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress

By Hy-Sang Lee | Go to book overview

1
A Summary History

The northern half of the Korean peninsula started to carve out a modern history of its own in 1945. The Soviet Army occupied this zone as the Japanese colonialists moved out in defeat in World War II, and along with the Red Army, Communism landed on North Korean soil. The Soviet occupation then picked an incredibly young man by the name of Kim II Sung to be the leader of the Koreans there. At the raw age of 33, Kim seemed unlikely to become a leader of lasting power and legacy. Yet, the youthful Kim had been a leader of the Korean guerrillas fighting the Japanese Imperial Army, and in the process shaped his worldview in distinctly martial terms. Consolidating his power in Pyongyang, Kim began to focus his considerable leadership abilities on bringing the southern half of Korea under Communism as well. Thus, Communist unification by martial means became the fundamental goal of North Korea from its outset under Kim II Sung and shaped its ensuing history, as Kim pursued this goal with extraordinary persistence throughout his long life. The North officially became the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in 1948, a month after the South constituted itself as the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Until 1950, Pyongyang carried out programs increasingly directed toward communizing the South. One of the most focused programs was the land reform of 1946. Instead of collectivizing the farms as was expected under a Communist regime, this program broke up large land holdings and distributed them to landless peasants and small tenants. The creation of a large number of new owner-cultivators, however, was not intended to consolidate capitalism, but to prepare for war and stock-

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