On this day in 1953, an armistice was signed in Panmunjon, Korea, ending the Korean War. The conflict lasted all of three years and thirty-two days, but it took the lives of some 5 million people – civilians and military – and split the Korean Peninsula between the democratic Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the oppressive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).
Often called the “Forgotten War,” the conflagration had its beginnings with the conclusion of another bloody conflict. As the world celebrated the end of World War II in 1945, the Korean Peninsula split along the 38th parallel; essentially becoming two nations. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly approved of open elections for the establishment of a provisional government. Communist forces opposed the elections, but they were held in the southern half in May of 1948. The elections created a national assembly, which in turn, established the Republic of Korea (ROK). In response, residents in the north created the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – an ironic name considering the nation’s current reputation for brutality. The U.S. removed its last troops from Korea in 1949, and the DPRK saw an opportunity to invade its southern neighbors.
The war known for its battles amidst wretched winters actually began in summer. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) attacked the ROK with the backing of the Soviet Union. The U.S. quickly returned to back the ROK.
It’s a shame – an extreme disservice – that the Korean War is occasionally referred to as the “Forgotten War.” My father served in the U.S. Army during that mess and, like anyone involved, he hasn’t forgotten a single thing about it. Certainly, there’s nothing to forget about 5 million deaths.