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North Korea History Timeline

2500 BC - 0 BC
  • (2333 BC) First Korean kingdom, Gojoseon, founded by Dangun
  • (195 BC) General Wiman Joseon established namesake region, expanded to control vast territory, controlled trade between China and nations at Manchuria
  • (108 BC) Wiman Joseon collapsed after conflicts with Han Dynasty, Proto-Three Kingdoms founded
  • (57 BC) Silla, one of Three Kingdoms, was founded
  • (37 BC) Goguryeo, one of Three Kingdoms, was founded; was longest lasting kingdom in world history
  • (18 BC) Baekje, one of Three Kingdoms, was founded; became significant regional sea power
50 AD - 1600 AD
  • (57 - 668) Three Kingdoms of Korea dominated Korean Peninsula, part of Manchuria
  • (676) Three Kingdoms unified under Silla Dynasty
  • (935) Silla Dynasty weakened due to internal conflict, surrendered to Goryeo, became Ioseon Dynasty
  • (1231) Mongol invasions began
  • (1270) Peace treaty signed with Mongols
  • (1392) Joseon Dynasty began when Yi Seonggye was crowned king
  • (1592) Japanese invaded Korea
  • (1627) First invasion by Manchu
  • (1636) Second invasion by Manchu
1800s
  • (1864) Gojong became king of Joseon Dynasty
  • (1864) French invaded Korea in retaliation for execution of several French Catholic missionaries
  • (1876) Korean ports opened with Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876
  • (1894) Donghak Peasant Revolution was armed rebellion led by peasants and followers of Donghak religion, prompted the first Sino-Japanese War
  • (1895) China recognized Korean independence in Treaty of Shimonoseki
  • (1895) Empress Myeongseong, wife of King Gojong, murdered by Japanese assassins
  • (1896) King Gojong fled to Russian legation in Seoul
  • (1897) King Gojong returned after a year of refuge
  • (1897) Ioseon renamed Korean Empire, Emperor Gojong took control
1900s
  • (1905) Japan annexed entire peninsula, Korean became a protectorate of Imperial Japan
  • (1907) Japan forced abdication of Emperor Gojong, son, Sunjong became emperor
  • (1909) Japanese Resident-General of Korea, Ito Hirobumi, assassinated by independence activist, An Jung-geun
  • (1910) Japan formally annexed Korea in Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910
  • (1910 - 1945) Japan forced Koreans to adopt Japanese names; forbade use of Korean language, converted Koreans to Shinto religion
  • (1919) Former Emperor Gojong died suddenly
  • (1919) Korea declared independence, held nation-wide peaceful demonstrations which were crushed by Japanese military and police forces
  • (1919) Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea established in Shanghai, China
  • (1919) Saito Makoto appointed Governor-General of Korea
  • (1920) Battle of Qingshanli fought between Imperial Japanese Army and Korean guerrillas; considered to be great victory for Korea
  • (1932) Lee Bong-chang, Korean independence activist, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate Japanese Emperor Hirohito with a hand grenade
  • (1932) Independence activist, Yun Bong Gil, bombed Japanese army celebration, two killed, injured several others; he was arrested at the scene
  • (1932) Yun Bong Gil executed for bombing incident
  • (1939 - 1945) World War II
  • (1945) World War II ended; Japan relinquished control of Korea to U.S. and Soviet Union
  • (1945) Korean Peninsula divided at 38th parallel, Soviets occupied north, U.S. occupied the south
  • (1945) Worker's Party of Korea (North Korea) founded; Soviets installed Kim Il-sung as premier
  • (1948) USSR and US Joint Commission on formation of Korean government reached impasse, Commission was dissolved, Cold War began; South created Republic of Korea, Syngman Rhee became president
  • (1948) Kim Il-sung created Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Soviet troops withdrew
  • (1948) Border clashes, naval battles, guerrilla warfare erupted between North and South Korea
  • (1950) South Korea declared independence, North Korea invaded
  • (1950 - 1953) Korean War
  • (1951) 1951 Refugee Convention approved by special United Nations conference
  • (1953) War ended when truce was signed by representatives of UN forces, North Korea, allied Chinese forces. South Korea did not sign. Korean war cost over two million lives
  • (1960s) Period of rapid industrial growth occurred
  • (1961) China and North Korea signed the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, China agreed to defend North Korea in case of attack
  • (1968) North Korea seized U.S. Navy intelligence ship, claiming it had intruded into territorial waters on spying mission; one crewman killed, crew in captivity for 11 months
  • (1968) North Korean commandos launched failed assassination attempt against South Korea President Park Chung-hee
  • (1969) North Korea shot down U.S. airplane above Sea of Japan, 31 men aboard the plane believed dead
  • (1972) In a joint communique, the two Koreas agreed to work peacefully to reunify the divided peninsula
  • (1973) North Korea and India established diplomatic ties
  • (1974) North Korean agent attempted to assassinate South Korean President, Park Chung-hee, Park survived, first lady was killed
  • (1976) North Korean soldiers attacked U.S. and South Korean soldiers in demilitarized zone, two U.S. Army officers killed
  • (1977) Law passed making all land property of the state with no rights for sale or purchase
  • (1982) China signed 1951 Refugee Convention
  • (1983) North Korean agents placed bombs at Burma venue during visit of South Korean President, Chun Do-hwan, more than 20 killed, president escaped
  • (1986) China, North Korea established protocol on security in border area
  • (1987) North Korea blew up South Korean civilian airliner, 115 killed.
  • (1987) U.S. placed North Korea on list of countries supporting terrorism
  • (1991) North Korea became member of United Nations
  • (1992) North Korea agreed to inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency, but then refused access to suspected nuclear weapons production sites
  • (1994) U.S., South Korea, Japan agreed to seek punitive steps against North Korea over nuclear program
  • (1994) Leader Kim Il-sung died, his eldest son, Kim John-il assumed power but not the title of president
  • (1994) North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for $5 billion worth of free fuel and two nuclear reactors in the Agreed Framework
  • (1995 - 1998) Over 220,000 people died from famine
  • (1995) U.S. agreed to help provide two nuclear reactors that produced less than weapons-grade plutonium
  • (1996) U.S. paid North Korea $2 million to help find remains of U.S. soldiers killed during Korean War
  • (1996) North Korea agreed to hold talks with South Korea
  • (1996) North Korea announced it would no longer abide by agreement that ended the Korean War, sent troops into demilitarized zone
  • (1997) North Korean submarine ran aground in South Korea,bodies of 11 crewman found nearby, seven more found next day and shot to death
  • (1998) U.S. invoked sanctions against North Korea and Pakistan for secret 1997 missile deal
  • (1998) Former president Kim Il-song was declared "eternal president"
  • (1998) Kim Jong-Il's powers were increased to include head of state
  • (1998) Food aid was brought in by UN to help flood victims
  • (1999) South Korean ships rammed and repelled four North Korean patrol boats, sank torpedo and damaged another in Yellow Sea
  • (1999) North Korea declared new demilitarized zone that placed five island controlled by South Korea, in North Korean territory
2000s
  • (2000) North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il met with South Korean President, Kim Dae-jung in Pyongyang. Agreed to work on reconciliation, signed agreement for separated families to visit
  • (2000) North Korea joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
  • (2000) North and South Korea agreed to reconnect railway linking two capitals
  • (2000) Border liaison offices were reopened at village of Panmunjom in "no-man's-land" between the two countries
  • (2000) 100 people from North Korea, 100 from South Korea began reunions with family members not seen in 50 years, over 100,000 on waiting lists
  • (2001) European Commission announced it would establish diplomatic ties with North Korea
  • (2001) Flooding killed more than 80 people, damaged crops, food shortages continued
  • (2002) U.S. President George Bush made "axis of evil" speech, linked North Korea with Iran and Iraq
  • (2002) Naval vessels from North and South Korea waged gun battle in Yellow Sea; 30 North Korean, four South Korean soldiers killed
  • (2002) U.S., European Union, South Korea, Japan halted oil shipments to Pyongyang due to secret weapons program in North Korea
  • (2002) North Korea began reactivating its reactor in Yongbyon, threw out international inspectors
  • (2003) North Korea withdrew from Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • (2003) North Korea, U.S. and China representatives met in Beijing to discuss North Korea's nuclear situation
  • (2003) Pyongyang announced it had reprocessed 8,000 nuclear fuel rods, could make up to six nuclear bombs
  • (2003) Parliament re-elected Kim John il as top leader
  • (2004) Train carrying oil and chemicals exploded near Ryongchon, more than 160 killed, hundreds injured, 8,100 homes destroyed
  • (2004) Another round of talks on North Korea's nuclear program ended inconclusively
  • (2005) On-going famine has killed more than 2.5 million people
  • (2005) UN World Food Program ordered to cease its humanitarian operations
  • (2005) Pyongyang said it built nuclear weapons for self-defense
  • (2005) In fourth round of six-nation talks on nuclear program, North Korea agreed to give up its weapons for aid, security guarantees, but remained insistent on right to use civilian atomic technology
  • (2005) North Korea test-fired short range missile
  • (2005) UN Commission on Human Rights condemned North Korea's poor human rights record, called for an end to its "systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights"
  • (2006) Two trains packed with soldiers collided head-on, more than 1,000 were killed
  • (2006) North Korea test-fired medium and long range missiles
  • (2006) Major flooding left over 54,000 dead or missing, 2.5 million homeless
  • (2006) UN set up series of sanctions against North Korea after international outcry following nuclear tests
  • (2007) Six-nation talks on nuclear program resumed in Beijing, North Korea agreed to close main nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel aid
  • (2007) Hundreds of cows and pigs were slaughtered after outbreak of foot and mouth disease
  • (2007) Passenger trains crossed North-South Korean borders for first time in 56 years
  • (2007) Following devastating floods, North Korea asked for aid
  • (2007) The prime ministers of the two Koreas met for the first time in 15 years
  • (2008) North Korea test-fired short range missiles
  • (2008) North Korean soldier killed South Korean tourist in resort at Mount Kumgang
  • (2008) Relations between North and South Korea deteriorated; North Korea expelled South Korean managers from joint industrial base, accused President Lee Myung-bak of sending a warship into Northern waters
  • (2008) North Korea launched long-range rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead
  • (2009) North Korea stopped all military and political agreements with South Korea due to "hostile intent"
  • (2009) Kim Jong il appointed to third term as supreme leader by Parliament
  • (2009) North Korea conducted a second nuclear test; emergency meeting of the UN security council called
  • (2008) After criticism from the UN Security Council, North Korea walked out of talks to end its nuclear program
  • (2009) Shots exchanged near north Yellow Sea border
  • (2009) U.S., China, Russia protested North Korea's underground nuclear test
  • (2009) North Korea withdrew from 1953 Armistice between the two Koreas
  • (2009) Two U.S. journalists sentenced to 12 years hard labor for allegedly crossing the border illegally; release obtained after visit from former U.S. President Bill Clinton
  • (2009) A revaluation of currency caused closing of shops, collapse of current, surge in rice prices, wiped our traders; working capital
  • (2010) North Korea called for end of hostile relations with U.S.
  • (2010) Thousands died from starvation in Pyongan province
  • (2010) North Korea allegedly sank South Korean warship, U.S. announced new sanctions
  • (2010) Kim John Il made youngest son, Kim Jong Un, a four-star general
  • (2011) Foot and mouth disease struck livestock, aggravated food shortages
  • (2011) Kim Jong-il died, son Kim Jong-un took over as chairman of the National Defense Commission
  • (2011) North Korea agreed to suspend enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program
  • (2012) Rocked-mounted satellite launch failed
  • (2012) Ri Yong-ho is removed as Army head, leader Kim Jong-un appoints himself to the highest rank
  • (2012) North Korea asked for food aid after devastating flooding which killed nearly 200 people, left tens of thousands homeless, devastated farmland
  • (2012) Satellite was launched into orbit after earlier failure, UN regarded the launch as violation of ban on North Korean missile tests
  • (2013) Third nuclear test conducted, twice as big as 2009 test, UN Security Council approved new trade and economic sanctions
  • (2013) Armistice that ended Korean War was nullified
  • (2013) North Korea announced it would restarts its plutonium reactor and increase the production of nuclear weapons materials
  • (2013) All foreign companies and tourists in South Korean were warned by North Korea to evacuate as the two countries were near a nuclear war
  • (2013) North and South Korean agreed to reopen jointly run factory park that had been shut down during threats
  • (2013) North Korea ordered indefinite postponement of reunions between families divided since Korean war
  • (2013) 80 people were publicly executed for watching smuggled South Korean television shows
  • (2013) Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un's uncle, was found guilty of attempting to overthrown the state and executed
  • (2014) Uranium enrichment facility at Nyongbyon nuclear complex was expanded, a plutonium reactor was restarted
  • (2014) Family reunions between North and South Korean reinstated
  • (2014) Parliamentary election held with approved and uncontested candidates
  • (2014) Two medium-range Nodong ballistic missiles were test fired
  • (2014) 30 short-range rockets were test-fired off east coast
  • (2014) Artillery shells were fired by North and South Korea across disputed western sea border
  • (2014) Kim Jong-un re-elected as head of country's top governing agency

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.