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[Op-Ed] Forgotten Armistice Day

Posted July. 27, 2009 07:26,   


In the United States, the national flag will be hanged at half mast today. The practice is aimed at honoring American soldiers who fought in the Korean War on the occasion of the 56th anniversary of the 1953 armistice.

The move comes after U.S. President Barack Obama said those who fought for freedom and peace on the Korean Peninsula deserve endless respect and gratitude, urging the hanging of the American flag at half mast.

Obama also said the strong partnership between South Korea and the U.S. gives a sense of pride to American soldiers stationed in South Korea even today, sending words of encouragement. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate also unanimously approved a bill on the hanging of the American flag at half mast today.

The U.S. commemoration of the armistice’s signing is a source for shame for South Korea, where the Korean War has become forgotten. The Korean War has not ended either officially or practically. Since there was no declaration of an end to the war or the signing of a peace treaty, the conflict remains in a state of ceasefire.

North Korea’s two nuclear tests, ballistic missile development, repeated intrusions into South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea, and military threat indicate that the Korean War rages on. Two sea battles near Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea in 1999 and 2002 saw limited combat but left dozens of soldiers dead or injured and naval ships sunken or destroyed on both sides.

The official name of the armistice “Agreement between the commander in chief of United Nations Command, on the one hand, and the supreme commander of the (North) Korean People’s Army and the commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteers, on the other hand, concerning a military armistice in Korea.”

Signing the armistice 56 years ago were U.N. Command Chief Mark W. Clark, the North Korean People Army’s Supreme Commander Kim Il Sung, and Commander Peng Dehuai of the Chinese People`s Volunteers Army. In 1991, the armistice became a mere scrap of paper after a South Korean general was appointed chief representative of the Military Armistice Committee. This led North Korea and China to pull out of the committee.

Today must be remembered in South Korea, as it was the day when the Republic of Korea was preserved thanks to U.N. military assistance to protect the South from the North’s attempt to communize the Korean Peninsula. Yet the South is not holding an event to honor its soldiers who fought in the war or hanging the national flag at half mast. In contrast, North Korea in 1973 designated July 27 a “day of commemoration for our victory in the war for liberation of the fatherland” on the 20th anniversary of the agreement. North Korea has observed this day as one of its 10 national holidays since 1996. The North falsely claims this day as a day of military victory but the South is no better in that its people have no idea about the meaning of the armistice.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)