The United States sent its first envoy to South Korea in 1883. The United States led the U.N. coalition that fought a war to defend Korea after North Korea invaded it in 1950. Korea and the United States first signed a mutual defense treaty in 1953 and have worked closely together ever since to provide security in the region and combat global threats.
Here is a brief timeline of U.S.-South Korean diplomatic history and cooperation since the mid-20th century.
Commodore Robert Shufeldt plays the critical role of establishing a diplomatic presence in the Kingdom of Korea and in negotiating our first bilateral trade treaty in 1882.
In 1883 Lucius Hardwood Foote serves as the first U.S. envoy to Korea and purchases the grounds where our Chief of Mission residence currently stands.
In 1884, Dr. Horace Newton Allen establishes Korea’s first western-style medical institution that would eventually become Severance Hospital.
Horace Grant Underwood arrives in Korea in 1885 and goes on to serve as President of the Joseon Christian College, the predecessor to Yonsei University.
Following Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula is divided at the 38th parallel into two occupation zones.
The parties do not realize their hopes for a unified Korea and instead establish two separate nations: the Republic of Korea in the south and the communist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north.
North Korean forces invade the South Korea. Led by the United States, a 16-country U.N. coalition undertakes South Korea’s defense while China enters the war on North Korea’s side.
An armistice ends the fighting, but the parties do not sign a peace treaty. The United States and the South Korea sign their mutual defense treaty.
The first Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement enters into force in 2012; six years later President Trump and President Moon Jae-in sign a landmark, revamped free trade deal.
President Trump pays the first state visit to Seoul by a U.S. president in 25 years.
The two close allies coordinate their response to the North Korean nuclear threat and their efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.