Fifty years ago today, the Korean war stopped, but did not end. An armistice was signed on this date in 1953. Prisoners of war were exchanged, but troops remained lined up along a demilitarized zone (DMZ). This was a cease fire agreement, not an end to the war. All attempts at negotiating an end of the war in the last half century have failed. The three years of fighting caused 325,000 American casualties (including 33,651 dead). South Korean troops suffered 360,000 casualties, while other nations fighting North Korea suffered 15,000 casualties. The communist forces suffered 1.5 million casualties. There were several million civilian casualties.
After the war, North Korea experienced a period of economic growth as its industrial facilities were rebuilt with Russian aid. From 1904 to 1945, Korea was a Japanese colony, and the north had mines, railroads and factories built by the Japanese. The south, which always had more farmland (most of Korea is mountainous), and was turned into a largely agricultural area to help feed Japan. During the Korean war, industrial and transportation facilities were heavily damaged, and reconstruction was slower in the south. But in the 1970s, foreign investment in the south began to grow, and local entrepreneurs began to start, or expand their businesses. By the 1980s, North Korea's centrally planned economy was falling apart because so much money was diverted to military spending, and lack of marketing resulted in products that could only be sold to other communist nations. When the Soviet empire fell apart between 1989-91, the markets for most North Korean goods disappeared. Corruption and lack of investment in agriculture resulted in food shortages, as well as the collapse of most industrial enterprises, except those that made weapons. North Korea could sell its ballistic missiles, and other weapons, to other nations.