July 27, 2023 is a historic date for the American veterans who participated in the Korean War. It was the 70th anniversary of the signing of the temporary Military Armistice Agreement that stopped the fighting after two years of over 575 talks between warring parties. Three days of events in Washington, DC from July 26-28 will marked the 70th anniversary with a call for a peace agreement to end hostilities on the Korean peninsula. I was in Korea 70 years ago and I witnessed the cease fire. We U.S. soldiers in Korea welcomed the armistice and were told that a peace agreement would be negotiated in quick order. It never happened.
Most people could be forgiven for thinking the 73-year-old Korean War — a conflict in which millions of people were killed — is completely over. But it’s not—at least not in the way you would think a war would be completely over — and the current conditions surrounding the U.S. armisticewith North Korea are having the opposite effect of what they’re intended to do. They’re not creating the conditions for sustained peace, they’re creating the conditions for what could be truly devastating violence. For the most part, Americans have no idea how dangerous the situation is on the Korean Peninsula. In just the last 12 months alone, North Korea has tested multiple long-range missiles and displayed enough intercontinental ballistic missiles to potentially overwhelm the U.S.’s long-range missile defense system.
This year is incredibly important to me and the Korean people. Next Wednesday, July 27th is the 70th anniversary of the armistice of Korean War, the longest war in American history. I turn 34 this year, almost half of that number. And my grandmother, who left a memoir that I finally found in 2015, was aged 70 years when she published these words, translated by me: I only understood what that war was, felt it against my flesh only after I came down from the mountains. Nobody was whole after the war. It spared no one. People either lost their lives, lost their families, lost their legs or arms, or were irrevocably scarred in their hearts. People who survived the war were like people who had already lost their lives once and came back from the dead.
Amid heavy security, hundreds of South Koreans gathered in front of a hotel where U.S. President Joe Biden was staying in Seoul to protest against the president's visit. People crowded in front of the Grand Hyatt Seoul hotel, near the presidential office, in the Yongsan district of Seoul, where Biden stayed during his state visit to the Asian country, which ended on Sunday. The discomfort over the presence of Biden is due to the fact that it will fuel tensions and the war on the Korean peninsula, according to analysts consulted by the local press. The U.S. president arrived in Seoul on Friday as part of a tour of South Korea and Japan to address various issues, including tensions on the Korean peninsula.
In a major development in the Korean peace process, South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States have agreed to declare an end to the Korean War. The announcement was made by South Korean president Moon Jae-in on Monday, December 13, who said the four parties to the Korean War agreed “in-principle” to formally declare its end, 71 years after it broke out in 1950. Speaking from Canberra, Australia, during his four-day visit to the country, president Moon Jae-in also pointed out that US hostility towards North Korea was among the reasons why peace talks were held back. North Korea has demanded an end to the “hostile policy” of the US, including sweeping sanctions and a virtual US-led blockade, as a precondition for the continuation of talks.
Despite its devastating destructive toll, the Korean War has been dubbed the “Forgotten War,” for the lack of public awareness or understanding in the US. Many Americans might be surprised to hear calls for peace on the Korean Peninsula, because we’re rarely made aware that the conflict there is ongoing, much less the US role in it. And, then again, we don’t very often hear the phrase “Korean Peninsula.” We’re more accustomed to seeing North and South Korea presented as natural antagonists, and North Korea as a virtual cartoon of an official enemy, about whom no claim is too grandiose. Into this context of myth and missing information comes a new call for a peace agreement to officially end the war. The report, called Path to Peace, was compiled by the Korea Peace Now! coalition, and we’re joined now by Hyun Lee, US national organizer for Women Cross DMZ, part of Korea Peace Now!.
In the United States today, North Korea is the standard reference point for modern-day totalitarianism: a land of darkness that is considered a dangerous security threat because of the development of nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. A.B. Abrams’ new book, Immovable Object: North Korea’s 70 Years at War with American Power (Clarity Press, 2020), shows that the common perceptions in the U.S. of North Korea are mostly wrong. Though the Kim dynasty has ruled through autocratic methods, it has also adopted rational and at times intelligent policies, which have enabled North Korea to weather unprecedented outside hostility and develop into something of a military powerhouse.