This year the two Korean states are celebrating their 60th anniversary. Established respectively in August and September 1948 the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) both have covered a long and winding road of struggle for recognition, survival and prosperity. With different degrees of success, both states have entered the 21st century of Globalization but still refuse to recognise each other. Ideological confrontation between the East and the West, which sparked a civil conflict in Korea, continues to dominate inter-Korean politics now and effectively prevents the prospect for reconciliation and peaceful unification.
All these years Australia has been one of the countries intimately involved in political developments on the Korean peninsula. As part of the West, Australia was closer to the ROK and even fought on its side during the Korean War (1950-1953). Active economic, cultural, and human exchange continued cementing the firm alliance between South Korea and Australia. These days the ROK is Australia’s third largest trading partner; South Koreans visiting Australia reach hundreds of thousands every year; academic and language exchange is on the rise. This year both countries decided to start the process leading to the Free Trade Agreement, which will fully open their domestic markets to each other.
On the contrary, relations between Australia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), have been one of the oddest and most chequered in diplomatic history. Australia was prominently represented in the UN Temporary Commission for Korea in 1947 and contributed to the creation of two hostile states on the peninsula. A short period of mutual recognition and cultural cooperation with the DPRK took place in the mid-1970s but was suddenly and mysteriously broken off. In May 2000, encouraged by the improved climate of inter-Korean and DPRK-US cooperation, Australia and North Korea resumed diplomatic relations. However, the resurgent nuclear crisis and the drug-smuggling incident in Victoria proved to be hard tests for this shaky relationship. (See the full text here…)