This article reviews inter-Korean relations in the period from 1980 to 1997 during which Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, and Kim Young-sam led their respective governments. Détente became more prevalent around the division system on the Korean peninsula with various actors’ choices intersecting with one another. At the peninsular level, the South and the North agreed on a new set of definitions for mutual recognition—albeit with limitations—in the 1991 South-North Basic Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation, which created the so-called the S-N Basic Agreement “regime.” However, the regime broke down soon after, making the Korean peninsula problem an international issue. In 1994, the United States and DPRK made a breakthrough in the Geneva Agreed Framework, despite which the division system developed minor fissures but remained intact. This failure shows that, despite changes in the international system surrounding the Korean peninsula, the division system will be extremely difficult to overcome unless each actor realizes a change of the mindset that is supplemented by a strong resolve to act on it.
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