Based on an image taken by the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) of the US (United States) Department of Defense, the Korean peninsula is aptly described in contrasting terms: “South Korea is bright, North Korea is dark” (GlobalSecurity.org). Such imagery is a reflection of the development of the divided Korean peninsula: North Korea in the grip of communism and dictatorship and South Korea at the frontiers of democracy and progress.After the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945, the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and the US occupied the Korean peninsula north and south of the thirty-eighth parallel, respectively (Wheeling Jesuit University). In 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established in the USSR-occupied North while the Republic of Korea was established in the US-occupied South. The succeeding Korean War, started in 1950, formalized the rift between the two states (Feffer). An armistice was finally declared in 1953, with the two states still holding their original territories. Due to decades of division, the two Koreas undertook diverging paths of development and achieved different levels of success.In terms of economic development, dark North Korea is facing poverty and food shortage whereas bright South Korea is “one of the world’s major economies and a leading exporter of cars and electronic goods” (BBC “Overview”). The Central Intelligence Agency states, “North Korea, one of the world's most centrally directed and least open economies, faces chronic economic problems
" (Central Intelligence Agency "Economy - Korea, North"). On the other hand, the CIA asserts, "South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy" (Central Intelligence Agency "Economy - Korea, South"). The 2007 estimate of the GDP per capita of North Korea was pegged at $1,900 whereas that of South Korea was pegged at $24,600. These differences can be explained by the ways the two Koreas handled their post-war economies.
Typical of communism wherein there is state ownership of all production, the North implements a central planning economy (Kwak). Consequently, the government has a hand in every economic activity. The North subscribes to three fundamental principles: "the construction of independent native economy, the heavy and munitions industries first policy, and the advance of military and economy side by side" (Hwang). Today, the Northern state still operates a closed economy to protect its political ideology. South Korea, on the other hand, employs a market economy, which has resulted to urbanization, industrialization and rapid economic growth (Kwak). Hwang adds that planned capitalism, wherein "the government plans the allocation of resources but gives [the] individual the private ownership of capital", also readily contributed to the economic progress. The government supported the expansion of family-owned industries called "chaebol", examples of which are Hyundai and Samsung (BBC "Overview"). As predicted, these business conglomerates became the frontrunners of the booming South Korean economy.
Politically, North Korea maintains a communist stance whereas South Korea adheres to democratic principles. Marxism-Leninism is the type of communism adapted by North Korea (Hwang). Kim Il-sung, the first head and considered the "Eternal president" of the North Korean government, promoted "Juche" - a political philosophy of self-reliance, which has become the foundation of the state's development (BBC "Overview"). Hwang states that Juche is actually brainwashing politics. From the fundamental concept that the human is the master of everything, Il-sung was able to justify an external closed-door policy and an internal dictatorship and hereditary succession (Hwang). The entire Northern state was militarized under the auspices of national defense. Hwang asserts that this caused a major breach between the North and South relations since South Korea seeks to unify through