Commemorating the armistice

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Commemorating the armistice

The Korean War hostilities officially ceased 60 years ago today, but the dark shadow of the war still lingers over the Korean Peninsula. The armistice of July 27, 1953 barely changed the division drawn across the peninsula by the United States and the Soviet Union shortly after Korea’s independence in 1945, a 155-mile-long divide along the 38th parallel.

Despite all the fierce battles between the Allied Forces under the United Nations Command and the communist forces, neither side emerged as the real winner. Until the collapse of communism in the Eastern Block in late 20th century, the Demilitarized Zone on the peninsula had been called a “powder keg for World War III.” South and North Korea have always been on the frontline of a severe ideological confrontation.

In the 21st century, the DMZ is not a symbol of ideological conflict anymore. Regrettably, however, the two Koreas are still fighting each other in the border areas, including the maritime border, largely due to the North’s persistent provocations, removed from the changes of time.

Although Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to establish - and actually ran - the joint industrial park in Kaesong and operated a tourism business at Mt. Kumgang - both near the tense border - both successful ventures were suddenly suspended due to the North’s irrational, self-serving decisions.

Over the past six decades, South Korea has grown into a major economic player and an exemplary democracy. Its astonishing success story is still touted as a miracle in the world economy. That’s why many countries that took part in the Korean War are still proud of what they did 60 years ago.

In sharp contrast, North Korea has become one of the most backward societies in the world - economically and in terms of human rights. That’s an utterly lamentable reality for Koreans - whether they be southerners or northerners - particularly on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the truce.

North Koreans are holding massive-scale festivities to celebrate their “victory” in the war while we take pride in having defended our country, together with our allies, from the communist invasion. Commemorating the end of the war and pledging to not repeat such a tragedy is necessary and meaningful. At the same time, though, we should not forget the standoff still goes on. The ceasefire agreement the two Koreas reached six decades ago demands both sides continue to erase the demarcation line from the map in a peaceful way. But we haven’t finished the job yet.

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