Korea grew and prospered for more than four hundred years, until 1582 when the powerful Japanese Regent, Hideyoshi, sent an army of 300,000 to occupy Korea as a stepping stone towards the ultimate conquest of China. The Japanese drove the Koreans north, killing thousands and destroying their cities until China intervened at the behest of the Korean monarchy and helped repel the invaders.
As the Japanese were driven back into the sea, they continued to rape the nation. They kidnapped skilled workmen and women. They stole Korean treasures and religious artifacts. They ground a hatred for all things Japanese into the Koreans, a hatred that has been passed on generation to generation, often refreshed with new outrages, and continues to smolder to this day.
Korea might have recovered from the devastation, but a new dynasty arose, the House of Yi, and established a rule fatal to all progress. The King took control of everything, a precursor to the centralized planning and control that afflicts North Korea to this day. No one was allowed to rise in stature or wealth beyond the limits imposed by the King. Even the size of a family's home was determined by the King. The only path to success lay in service in the King's court. However, yang-bin, civil servants also had to be cautious. Any display of ambition might have resulted in forfeiture of one's rank or even one's life.
Unlike Cuba with its long history of revolution, North Korea submits mutely to tyrants. It appears that passivity is a national trait of Koreans and they endure every insult, every privation, without thought of rebellion. At the very least, there is no historical record of the people rebelling against their oppressors, either foreign or domestic. Those few who did attempt to rebel used passive means which might have worked against more civilized tyrants but, in the case of the Koreans, only resulted in mass executions, especially when they attempted to stand up to the Japanese. This lack of a heritage for rebellion only encourages tyrants to rise and subjugate the people.