All you need to know about the two Koreas in charts

SEOUL - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South's President Moon Jae In held the first inter-Korea summit in 11 years on Friday (April 27), the third such meeting since the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953.

The recent detente between North and South Korea has given new life to talk of unification for the two countries divided since the 1950s. But on a peninsula locked in conflict for 70 years, unification is a concept that has become increasingly convoluted and viewed as unrealistic, at least in the South, amid an ever-widening gulf between the two nations, analysts and officials say.

The South has become a major economic power with a hyper-wired society and vibrant democracy; the North is an impoverished, isolated country locked under the Kim family dynasty with few personal freedoms.

These charts explain the history of the two Koreas and illustrate how their economies and societies have drifted apart over the decades.

A SHARED HISTORY

The end of Japanese colonial rule and the subsequent civil war left deep scars, which were often exacerbated by Cold War tensions between the superpowers.

It took nearly 20 years after the end of fighting before the two Koreas would officially talk, and the years since have been marked by ups and downs in relations.

Unlike East and West Germany, which were reunited in 1990, the Korean division is based on a fratricidal civil war that remains unresolved.

The two Koreas never signed a peace deal to end the conflict and have yet to officially recognise each other.

Those unresolved divisions are why seeking peace and nuclear disarmament are President Moon's top priorities in Friday's summit with Kim, said Moon Chung In, special national security adviser to the President.

Kim's grandfather Kim Il Sung founded North Korea in 1948 and his family dynasty has ruled the country ever since.

In the same period, South Korea has managed six republics, a revolution, a couple of coups and the transition to free and fair elections. In total, 12 presidents have led the country, covering 19 terms of office.

A PROSPEROUS SOUTH VS A POOR NORTH

After the Korean peninsula was divided, the North's heavily industrialised economy was larger than the more agrarian South.

Until 1973, North and South Korea were pretty evenly matched in terms of wealth.

But in the mid 1970s, the South embarked on a series of market-based reforms that have made its economy one of the largest in the world, while the North began to stagnate while heavily reliant on foreign aid.

Since then, South Korea has rocketed ahead to become one of the world's leading industrial producers and the fourth-largest economy in Asia. Its chaebols (conglomerates) such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai are household names across the world.

North Korea stagnated in the 1980s and experienced a series of famines in the late 1990s.

North Korea experts say it has experienced a boom since Kim Jong Il took power in late 2011. But the US-led sanctions against the regime for its missile and nuclear tests, and pressure by China, its main trading partner, has choked the economy.

This is seen as one factor which made Kim Jong Un come to the negotiating table with President Moon.

A DIVIDED PEOPLE

North and South Korea are deeply divided by more than just the heavily fortified border. While still sharing a common language and heritage, the two countries have become increasingly different.

A series of famines in the late 1990s caused a sharp drop in life expectancy in North Korea, but even without that factor, the North lags nearly 12 years behind, and food shortages continue to persist.

A STARK PICTURE AT NIGHT

Perhaps nothing has come to symbolise the different standards of living as much as electricity consumption, with the North experiencing regular blackouts.

The gap in electricity supply capacity between South Korea and North Korea reached a record high in 2016, with the South capable of generating 14 times more, data from Statistics Korea and local power operators showed.

South Korea's electricity output reached 105,866MW in 2016 if all of its power plants operated at full capacity. By comparison, North Korea's output was estimated at 7,661MW.

The difference is the largest since South Korea began to release related data in 1965.

Past records show that South Korea's generation capacity grew 137-fold since 1965, while that for North Korea increased just threefold.

By 2005, South Korea's electricity output capacity reached 65,514MW, while North Korea's capacity effectively peaked at 7,822MW, data said.

AN ICBM GAME CHANGER

While North Korea is the 52nd-largest country by population, it is considered to have the world's fourth-largest army.

Military spending is estimated to account for as much as 25 per cent of gross domestic product, and almost every North Korean man undergoes some form of military training.

The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), a border dividing the two Koreas, is a 4km wide buffer of landmines and razor wire stretching 245km across the middle of the Korean peninsula.

Heavy weapons and hundreds of thousands of North and South Korean soldiers are forward deployed on either side of the border. Some 28,500 American troops are also stationed in South Korea.

 

Pyongyang does not comment on its military deployment, but experts believe most of North Korea's 13,600 guns and multiple rocket launchers are positioned near the DMZ.

Its conventional arsenal includes large-caliber guns and multiple rocket launchers that experts consider effective despite their mostly outdated design.

Kim Jong Un has been pushing to develop missiles at an unprecedented pace, despite suffering multiple failures on several previous launches of older models.

The latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, was successfully test launched for the first time on Nov 29 last year.

 

The missile reached an altitude of 11 times that of the International Space Station. The trajectory indicates a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile.

It was said to have flown more than 13,000km, putting the US mainland and Washington, DC within reach.

SOURCES: REUTERS, BBC, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK