At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into two zones along the 38th parallel in the middle of the Korean peninsula, with the North occupied by the Soviet Union and the South occupied by the United States. The Soviets established a socialist government in the north called The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK, closely aligning it with the Soviet Union. The United States established a capitalist Republic in South Korea, closely aligned with the West.
The DPRK believed then, and still does today, that they are the sole sovereign governing power of all of Korea. This led to the Korean War in 1950, with an invasion by the DPRK into South Korea. The U.S. military fought for South Korea, then Chinese troops joined with the DPRK. The fighting stopped in 1953, with the Korean Armistice Agreement, which was a ceasefire that established a demilitarized zone (DMZ), but no formal peace treaty has ever been signed. The DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula near the 38th parallel north, essentially a border barrier, that divides the peninsula roughly in half. It serves as a buffer zone between the countries of North Korea and South Korea, where no military units are allowed to enter.
After the war, the DPRK turned into a communist dictatorship ruled by Kim II-Sung, supported with economic aid and expertise from the Soviet Union and China. North Korea remained closely aligned with both China and the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. Industry became the strongest sector of the DPRK’s economy. During the 1960’s, economic growth was higher than in South Korea, with North Korean GDP per capita being equal to that of its southern neighbor. Then in the 1970’s, South Korea’s economy began to boom while the DPRK entered a state of stagnation like most communist countries. Kim II-Sung was a firm believer in Joseph Stalin’s totalitarian leadership tactics and he used them on the people of North Korea. Over the decades of his reign, Kim II-Sung transformed himself into a cult of personality to where people worship him as if he were George Washington, Santa Claus, and their savior Jesus Christ, all in one.