Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice. (Note, not peace – no peace agreement was signed).
The war for the battle of the Korean peninsula was ugly and brutal. (6/25/1950-7/27/1953) Americans were worn out from WWII but the Communists were not. Officially, the UN helped the south Koreans but we know who did the bulk of the work, and outside Koreans, who took the most casualties (US).
Last week I was in Korea with our son who is stationed there. We visited the War Memorial and the DMZ. Even as a former teacher of American History, I don’t recall ever understanding the devastation that occurred during this war. In 1945 Korea was divided between the “north” and “south” at the 38th parallel. Russia and the USA were designated as “trustees” of each half respectively and were to establish a provisional government. Well, we know which side reneged. Two governments were established: Communist in NK, Free in SK. On June 1, 1951, NK invaded SK.
Seoul, a key city in all of Korea’s history, would be the “prize” if NK had captured it. NK captured and pushed through Seoul, all the way to the SE corner of Korea. All looked bleak until Gen. McArthur and US Marines went to western Korea near Seoul and cut off NK supply lines. The SK and UN pushed almost to the Chinese border, then Mao sent in soldiers. No one would win and the armistice was sighed on July 27, 1953. SK reps did not attend the meeting or sign the armistice. There was no “victor” and there were over 1,000,000 deaths – the Americans: 33,739.
More data but suffice it to say, today Korea is still prepared for invasions. NK has dug tunnels 75 meters (over 75 yards) deep – big enough to get their soldiers to Seoul. Four tunnels have been found but more are suspected to exist. Seoul has a very large underground (physically speaking) economy that comes to life at night – HUGE shopping centers. These malls along with all subway stations include hundreds or more gas masks and protection for poison gas. Koreans live with the threat of another attack every day, everywhere.
You will see celebrations by NK claiming victory. No, no victory and NK has millions of people starving, in forced labor camps, etc.
Having an opportunity to see SK in action, the pride they have in their soldiers and respect (now) for American soldiers was heartwarming. If you go there, you can visit the DMZ and actually stand on NK land under a LOT of protection. (In the referenced photos, where you see H. Clinton and J. McCain is on the NORTH side of the DMZ.)
Two key words are heard everywhere in Korea: reunification and freedom. We need to remember.