Historical Context

North and South Korea

"Monologue for an Onion" is included in Kim's Notes from the Divided Country. The title refers to Korea, from which Kim's family originally came. Since the end of World War II, Korea has been divided into two separate countries, North Korea and South Korea. When the two countries were formed, the Soviet Union occupied the north and the United States occupied the south. In 1950, tensions about political legitimacy between the two countries reached a head when the Korean War erupted. The war between the Communist-controlled north and the United Nations-supported south went on for three years, until an armistice was signed in 1953. North Korea continued to be governed by the Communist leader Kim Il Sung, who ruled from 1948 until his death in 1994. Upon his death, his eldest son, Kim Jong Il, assumed leadership of the country.

After the Korean War, South Korea struggled to secure its political stability, enduring a number of rulers, governments, and coups. In 1987, a more democratic form of government was established with the election of a president. During the 1990s, South Korea grew into a major economy. Despite some setbacks, most notably the Asian financial crisis of 1997, South Korea is, in the early twenty-first century, a stable democracy with a healthy economy.

Although tentative efforts have been made to reunify North and South Korea (beginning with a summit in 2000), it does not seem feasible. Relations between the two nations have grown less hostile, but concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons capabilities made South Korea, and other nations of the world, cautious. In 2005, North...

(The entire section is 684 words.)