Seoul was the capital of North Korea until 1972. It doesn’t seem quite right does it? But it was the stark reality for nearly 20 years after the end of the Korean War. So why was Seoul was the capital of North Korea until 1972? After all, Seoul is south of the 38th parallel, which is considered the border between the two feuding Korea’s. It all has to do with ideology and goals.
The circumstances that saw Seoul as the capital of North Korea go far back to the imperial Japanese rule. As Korea was occupied and ruled by Japan since 1910, there was no form of self government. When the WWII ended it left a bit of a problem as what to do with the Korean peninsula. The two leading powers at the time, America and the Soviet Union, decide to split the country at the 38th parallel, with America responsible for the south, and the Soviets looking after the north. As with Germany, there were going to be problems.
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By 1948 the two sides of the country had developed governments, with completely different political views. Now that’s perfectly fine, but the problem was jurisdictional. Both governments, the government in the south and the government in the north both claimed to be the one and only legitimate government of all of Korea. See the problem? Before long the country was plunged into a war that dragged several other countries into it.
The hostilities ended in 1953, though the war was not not officially over. It’s a bit like a tense truce, and still remains that way today. Because the war was never completely finalized with a decisive outcome, the opposing governments still have differing views. One such view was who was in charge of Korea.
With the war over, North Korea was less than happy that they were not in charge of the south, and Seoul in particular. They wanted, and regarded Seoul as the capital of North Korea. As far as they were concerned, Pyongyang was just the administrative center of the country. It was only to be used in this way until they could retake and liberate the south from the pretenders and American occupiers. This was a view that they kept up for nearly 20 years after the war.
In 1972, after spending nearly 20 years in total denial, North Korea finally accepted that they may never have Seoul as a real capital of North Korea. They ratified their constitution, dropping Seoul and making Pyongyang the capital. I’m sure that won’t be the end of it, as the region is regarded as one of the world’s hottest flashpoints for possible conflict.