5 February 2015

20 years of difference between North and South Korea



1994 – North Korean leader Kim Il Sung dies. A national mourning period dictated. A statement from the Korean Central News Agency says: “He turned our country, where age-old backwardness and poverty had prevailed, into a powerful Socialist country, independent, self-supporting and self-reliant.” That year, North Korea experiences a famine that lasts half a decade, and has been receiving humanitarian aid since then.

1995 – South Korea develops the first ever contactless payment cards for the transport system in Seoul (nearly ten years before the oyster card).

1996 – The US joins the humanitarian aid effort to combat the famine in North Korea and begins to ship food supplies there. The biggest donors and China and Japan.

1997 – South Korean company Saehan Information Systems launches the first portable mp3 player in the world.

1998 – US Congressional staffers who visited North Korea to assess the impact of the famine reported that: “We gave a range of estimates, from 300,000 to 800,000 dying per year, peaking in 1997. That would put the total dead from the North Korean food shortage at between 900,000 to 2.4 million between 1995 and 1998.”

1999 – South Korea is the 12th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP.

2000 – Life expectancy in North Korea is 66.8 years (compared to 75.9 in South Korea, 77 in the US, and 77.7 in the UK)

2001 – South Korea finishes 3rd in the East Asian Games, winning 34 gold medals, 46 silver, and 32 bronze. North Korea does not compete.

2002 – In his first State of the Union address, President George W. Bush names North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, as countries that constitute an “Axis of Evil” and a threat to the rest of the world.

2003 – South Korean pharmaceutical firm LG Life Sciences develops new antibiotic drug Gemifloxacin, marketed as Factive, for treating pneumonia and bronchitis.

2004 – An explosion takes place in the Ryanggang province of North Korea. The incident is not reported for three days, when it is picked up by the South Korean press, and is suspected of being nuclear, although further evidence suggests that this is unlikely to be the case. It is not featured in any North Korean news reports, and North Korea later claims it was a controlled demolition. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.

2005 – South Korean physicist Philip Kim reports findings that lead to the discovery of super-material graphene while working at Columbia University. South Korea is currently third in the world for the number of graphene patents the country has, holding 15% of the total global graphene patents.

2006 – North Korean GDP growth is at -1%, the first time in a decade that the country has a negative growth rate.

2007 – South Korean technology firm LG develops the first completely touch screen mobile phone, the LG Prada.

20082803 North Koreans defect. 78.3% are women.

2009 – South Korean figure-scater Kim Yuna breaks the record for free skating in the World Championships. She goes on to win gold in the Olympics in 2010, setting a new Olympic record.

2010 – Kim Jong Un gains political and military posts, and is groomed as the successor to Kim Jong Il. Meanwhile, an Amnesty International report on of North Korean healthcare states: “North Korea’s healthcare system is unable to provide sterilized needles, clean water, food and medicine, and patients are forced to undergo agonizing surgery without anesthesia”.

2011Now on My Way To Meet You, a talent show about defectors, launches in South Korea. Female North Korean defectors are interviewed and perform to a studio audience, singing, dancing, or acting out comedy skits.

2012 – Testimony that Human Rights Watch collected in 2012 from North Korea revealed that authorities executed persons for “crimes” that included stealing metal wire from a factory, taking plate glass from a hanging photo of Kim Jong-Il, and guiding people to the North Korea-China border with intent to flee the country.

2013 – South Korea launches its first satellite into space. The first South Korean in space was Yi So-yeon in 2008, making South Korea one of only eleven countries to have sent a woman into space.

Today, South Korea is making huge advances in countless fields: developing smart prosthetic skin, the 3D printing of graphene, and building an invisible sky-scraper. Meanwhile, more than 27,000 people have defected from North Korea to South Korea, with thousands more escaping to Russia, Thailand, Vietnam, and primarily to China. Never has the gulf between the two nations been more acute.

Rachel Cunliffe is Deputy Editor for CapX.