What’s Going On in North Korea?

kim-jong-un-horseThough it’s prominence in the news has lessened some, North Korea–and the actions and intentions of its young leader Kim Jong-un–continues to be a hot topic. Just this week, North Korea was a key point of discussion between President Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye during the two’s first meeting in Washington. “Solidarity on North Korea is going to be the hallmark of this meeting,” Obama said, and both leaders agreed that they wanted to see an end to Kim Jong-un’s threats toward the US and South Korea.

This conference comes on the heels of last week’s (May 2nd) news that the North Korean government had sentenced American citizen Kenneth Bae to fifteen years of hard labor at a North Korean labor camp. Bae, from Washington state, ran a tour company out of China, and was arrested when he took a group of Chinese businessmen into the isolated country of North Korea. Bae was charged with “hostile acts” against the government. (Recent reports have suggested that Bae was a Christian missionary, and his efforts were viewed as a threat to the state’s reverence towards its leader, Kim Jong-un.) Bae’s arrest and sentencing on vague and dubious charges has inspired international criticism and anger towards North Korea.

Even basketball star and TV personality Dennis Rodman, who several months ago visited rodman-kim_2496070bNorth Korea without US state department approval and claims to have befriended Kim Jong-un, has gotten into the discussion. Rodman tweeted: “I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim’, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.” (Rodman claiming to call the North Korean leader “Kim” as an expression of closeness is a bit odd, since Kim is a surname.)

These stories and others, such as the UN creating a three person panel for its first ever human rights investigation in North Korea, make it clear that the country will continue to be in the news and the world’s attention for some time to come. But still, much about the country is unknown. How did this small, isolated communist country begin commanding the world’s attention? How did its young, eccentric leader Kim Jong-un come to power? To begin to understand where North Korea is going, it’s vital to find out where it came from.

A crucial part of Korean–and US–history is The Korean War. Though not as well known or studied as other 20th century conflicts like World War II or the Vietnam War, The Korean War was a major and influential part of history. Not only was it one of the first and largest armed conflicts of the Cold War, it featured the rise to power of Kim Il-sung, grandfather of Kim Jong-un, setting the stage for the North Korea of today.

To help the students of today understand this war and it’s profound impact on history and current events, Morgan Reynolds Publishing proudly presents our first Ebook exclusive, Modern American Conflicts: The Korean War (ISNB# 978-1-59935-403-3) by Jim Corrigan. To order a downloadable copy for your computer or e-reader, visit morganreynolds.com, Mackin Educational Resources, or Follett.

-Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

A propaganda poster of Kim Il-sung, leader of North Korea during the Korean War and grandfather of Kim Jong-un.

A propaganda poster of Kim Il-sung, leader of North Korea during the Korean War and grandfather of Kim Jong-un.

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