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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): U.S. and the Two Koreas, Part I, 1969-2000

About this Collection

The National Security Archive's collection on U.S.-Korean relations covers both diplomatic, security, and economic relations between the United States and its ally, South Korea; and the challenges to the U.S. posed by an adversarial North Korea. It spans events dating from the Nixon administration's response to the April 15, 1969 downing, by North Korean MiG-17s, of a U.S. EC-121 reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan, to efforts during the Clinton years to deter Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

The collection contains approximately 1,800 records documents released by the State Department, the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, and other agencies, as well as historical material compiled through research at the National Archives and the presidential libraries. The many newly-declassified documents in the set deal with a wide range of significant themes and events. These include detailed contingency plans for military strikes against North Korea in response to the EC-121 incident; growing concern over North Korea's economic instability; the leadership transition from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang; political liberalization in South Korea (from the Kwangju uprising to the election of Kim Dae Jung); a historic summit meeting between the leaders of South and North Korea in 2000, and secret discussions with other powers, including Japan, China and Russia, aimed at coordinating an international diplomatic response to North Korea's threat to regional security.

Research Value of the Collection

The divided Korean peninsula represents the critical remaining unresolved legacy of the Cold War. As U.S. and South Korean forces monitor the still-tense Demilitarized Zone, the potential for renewed conflict and the hope for a final peace continue to present significant political and security challenges for American policy. This set is compiled from the latest records declassified and released by the U.S. government, and provides documentation on a broad spectrum of the policy issues confronting the U.S. on the Korean peninsula between 1969 and 2000.

Among these key issues are the security threat posed by North Korea, including the emergence of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and missile programs in the 1990s and multilateral efforts to engage the regime in negotiations to halt these programs and work towards a permanent peace treaty; the U.S. military presence in South Korea; America's role in the troubled political history of South Korea, from the authoritarian regime of assassinated President Park Chung Hee through the 1979 military coup that brought Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo to power in the 1980s, to the political reforms that led long-time dissident leaders Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung to the presidency in the 1990s; the impact of the Asian Economic Crisis on South Korea; and assessments of North Korea's economic situation and prospects for the North Korean communist regime in the 1990s, both before and after the death of Kim Il Sung.

This collection, gathered from the major agencies concerned with the management of U.S.-Korean relations, will permit scholars to refer directly to primary documents of central importance in researching these events and issues, including but not limited to policy reviews, internal assessments of various aspects of North and South Korea's foreign, military, and economic policies, and intelligence reports, as well as memoranda of conversation and diplomatic cables that provide an intimate view of the dynamics of the U.S.-South Korean relationship. Thus, the documents will be of great relevance to scholars in a variety of fields, including:

  • U.S.-South Korea relations
  • U.S.-North Korea relations
  • Korean Peninsula studies
  • U.S.-Asia policy
  • East Asia area studies
  • Security studies
  • International relations
  • International economic policy
  • U.S. policy making
  • The Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and  Clinton presidencies