How did North Korea matter to the West after the 1950s War and before NK got their own Nukes?

Exactly as the title says, how relevent was North Korea and South Korea was in between these 2 events and how did it matter internationally?

North Korea mostly remained relevant as an ever continuing threat to the US backed South Korea. The Kim dynasty has kept a crapload of Soviet supplied artillery aimed directly at Seoul at all times, and could do some devastating damage if either side decided to escalate things to a shooting war. Until the end of the Cold War, the US was quite worried about Communism spreading like wildfire through Southeast Asia, so they put a lot of effort into propping up the South, as after the Vietnam War, the only other US ally in the region was Japan, a country that isn't allowed to have a military in its post-war constitution (they try to weasel around this with the Self Defense Forces), so they won't be of much help to the US except as an unsinkable aircraft carrier/staging ground.

To add to what Supernova1138 said, the Korean peninsula is very close to Japan. "Pointed like a dagger at the heart of Japan", or so it was said. It's strategically important to you as long as Japan is.

Hasn't North Korea been doing pretty well for itself economically until the Soviet Union collapsed? Not that I'm an expert but it hasn't always been quite the famished third world banana republic it's now. Doesn't help that South Korea hasn't really been a stable democracy for that long either.

PsychedelicDiamond:
Hasn't North Korea been doing pretty well for itself economically until the Soviet Union collapsed? Not that I'm an expert but it hasn't always been quite the famished third world banana republic it's now. Doesn't help that South Korea hasn't really been a stable democracy for that long either.

The North was actually doing a bit better economically than the South around the 1960s, but that was pretty much entirely due to Soviet aid. Once the USSR collapsed and the aid stopped flowing, North Korea's economy tanked hard and the famines started as North Korea couldn't import food from the USSR anymore. China was also starting to quietly drop Communism at this stage so while they continued trading with North Korea, they weren't all that interested in propping it up beyond what was necessary to keep North Korean refugees from fleeing into China. Botttom line is that North Korea simply isn't sustainable without serious backing from a superpower to make up for their many economic shortfalls, and they haven't had that for almost 30 years now.

Samtemdo8:
Exactly as the title says, how relevent was North Korea and South Korea was in between these 2 events and how did it matter internationally?

The reasons shifted over time. America initially got involved in the Korean War to prevent a communist revolutionary (Kim Il-sung) from taking over the peninsula. China, freshly ready to assert its newfound power after resolving its own civil war, intervened with Soviet support.

After the war turned into a stalemate, both America and the USSR/CCCP sent military and economic support to their respective Koreas. For America, South Korea was an important part of their strategy of preventing a wave of communist governments in East Asia. This was the same reason they got involved in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 60s. That status quo persisted for, oh, forty years or so. Then the USSR collapsed, and overnight, North Korea became a completely different type of problem. Before, the problem was "how do we stop communism from spreading into East Asia?" Now, the problem was "what the fuck do we do about this little mini-Mao and his batshit crazy Orwellian nightmare of a regime?"

The answer was "nothing," because when you think about it, North Korea actually just wasn't that important after the USSR collapsed. There was no fearsome "red wave" to hold back; China had opened its economy and was communist in name only; South Korea was turning into an economic powerhouse. Everyone just expected North Korea to implode without support from the USSR. Except it didn't; its economy collapsed and a colossal famine in the late 90s killed millions, but China bailed them out, seeing North Korea still useful as a buffer zone against the US.

But other than that, everybody just ignored North Korea. An intervention was out of the question; North Korea had essentially achieved full deterrence a long time ago, because they had (and still have) several thousand artillery pieces aimed directly at Seoul. And whenever they wanted some concessions internationally, they would take some hostages or sink a ship or shoot down an airplane and bring the peninsula to the brink of war, knowing all the time that any military action against North Korea would result in millions of dead South Koreans and probably the devastation of the growing South Korean economy.

So the DPRK was, in effect, totally safe from outside attack. But they didn't think they were safe. To the Kim regime, the only assurance of complete safety lay in securing nuclear weapons. They knew they could do it; South Africa, India, Pakistan and Israel all acquired nuclear weapons in spite of the NPT. It was just a matter of time and money. The international community was all to eager to continue ignoring them, which solved the "time" part of the equation; the "money" part was hard, considering that they were broke all through the 90s and beyond, but they resorted to selling drugs, sex slaves and pirated CDs (no shit) to supplement government income. Successive attempts to negotiate an end to the North Korean nuclear program were sabotaged largely by North Korea repeatedly breaking any agreement they struck, then starting their brinksmanship cycle again in order to get more concessions in exchange for promises that they would again break. And then, while the world was largely not paying attention, they suddenly detonated a nuclear weapon.

"Oh, they're lying," said everyone. And then they did another one, and another. "Okay, they have nukes, but they can't send them anywhere, surely." A few years later, they're testing ballistic missiles. Here comes 2017, we've all been ignoring North Korea and hoping it would just solve itself for literally twenty-seven years, and they test a working ICBM that can carry a nuclear warhead. Suddenly they're a nuclear power. Now they're a threat. Not just to South Koreans or to US soldiers abroad, but to the mainland - to people in Hawaii and California and even Washington DC. Suddenly, a few million dead South Koreans doesn't seem as unthinkable a price as it was before.

The only hope anyone has of avoiding a dangerous new status quo, where North Korea sells nukes to terrorists to pay for its army and engages in ever-more-deadly games of nuclear brinkmanship, lies in Donald Trump. That, my friends, keeps me awake at night.

NK was a threat to SK for that time, but as a result of mutually assured destruction, it was no more likely to cause nuclear war than Eastern Germany and the other minor powers in the eastern bloc. After the cold war there were debates on how to prevent them from Nuclearizing. Under the clinton administration a deal was proposed to provide NK with the means to create their own non-nuclear power supply in exchange for them not nuclearizing, but this was not successful as a result of internal disagreements on the matter, as some congressmen labeled it as 'appeasement'. The US did not support the sunshine policy of Kim Dae-Jung to any great extent, and the US policy against NK became increasingly harsh under Bush Jr who included them in his 'axis of evil'-speech. Like many other bad foreign policies of the time, it continued throughout the Obama administration, and with the LKP coming into in power in South Korea, their policy also became less inclined towards peace. China has been NKs protector since the fall of the soviet union, and their policy has essentially been a guarantee of independence. They will defend North Korea against an attack from the US and its allies, but will not join North Korea in an attack against the south or any other country

Speaking to a South Korean colleague, she said Kim Il-Sung was dangerous, Kim Jon-il was the most calm of the three and Kim Jon-Un was the craziest, threatening everyone, even more the Sung. Like, enough for her to want to leave the peninsula. My country's Prime Ministers continual ratcheting up of difficulty to become a citizen and Jon-Un not following through with threats has encourage Koreans to go back.

 

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