South Korea Current Affairs - 2020

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S. Korea rebuilds Namdaemun: National Treasure Number One

South Korea has unveiled its cultural gem ‘Namdaemun’ gate after completing works of its restoration. Namdaemun which is also known as country’s National Treasure Number One, was destroyed to ashes in 2008 in an arson attack.

What is the importance of Namdaemun for S. Korea?

‘Namdaemun’ is 600-year old pagoda-style gate which was first built in the last year of King Taejo of Joseon’s dynasty in 1398, and rebuilt in 1447, during the 29th year of King Sejong the Great of Joseon’s reign. The gate which is officially known as the Sungnyemun (literally Gate of Exalted Ceremonies), is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, which surrounded the city in the Joseon Dynasty.  It was once one of the three major gateways through Seoul’s city walls which had a stone circuit of 18.2 kilometres (11.3 mi) and stood up to 6.1 metres (20 ft) high.

What happened to the gate in 2008?

‘Namdaemun’ was set afire by an arsonist who was disgruntled over receiving insufficient compensation following the expropriation of his land as part of an apartment-building project in Seoul’s north-western satellite city of Koyang, as claimed by him. In this tragedy, the gate was severely damaged. The whole restoration took 5-year time and cost S. Korea  27-billion-won ($24.4 million).

What is a Pagoda?

Pagoda is an architectural style of building tiered towers (multi-storied) which can be of stone, brick, or wood. Its origin can be traced to Indian ‘Stupa’ which is a dome shaped monument, was used as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics. In has strong links with Buddhist practice in which this form came to be considered as an appropriate repository for sacred relics, and it spread across East and Southeast Asia. This kind of towers are common in Nepal, India, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Burma and other parts of Asia.

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North Korea ends war armistice

North Korea has confirmed the end of the 60-year-old armistice signed after the end of the Korean War, and warned of “merciless” military retaliation against its enemies. The North has annulled the 1953 armistice in protest over joint South Korea-US military manoeuvres.
The armistice was approved by the UN General Assembly, and both the United Nations and South Korea have repudiated the North’s unilateral withdrawal.
The North has also threatened to launch nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea in response to fresh UN sanctions adopted after the North carried out its third nuclear test.

What armistice is being talked about here?
The Korean War, which was fought b/w the  the Republic of Korea (South Korea), supported by the United Nations, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), supported by the People’s Republic of China, ended on 27 July 1953, when the armistice agreement was signed. The agreement restored the border between the Koreas near the 38th Parallel and created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 2.5-mile (4.0 km)-wide fortified buffer zone b/w the two Korean nations.

Outcome of Korean War:
North Korea which had invaded deep into the South was pushed back beyond the 38th parallel with the support of the UN army. At this stage People’s Republic of China joined the war from the side of North Korea which forced the Southern-allied forces to retreat behind the 38th Parallel. The Soviet Union didn’t play any direct role in the war but supplied material aid to both the North Korean and Chinese armies. The fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when the armistice agreement was signed. The agreement restored the border between the Koreas near the 38th Parallel and created the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 2.5-mile (4.0 km)-wide fortified buffer zone between the two Korean nations.   

The 38th parallel:
It has been considered as the border separating the North from the South Korea. It came into existence with the victory of Allied in WW II ending the Empire of Japan’s 35-year colonial rule of Korea. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily occupy the country as a trusteeship with the zone of control demarcated along the 38th parallel.

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