In 1950, the North Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea, sparking the bloody Choguk haebang chǒnjaeng. The US and UN supported the South; Russia and China supported the North (as they were at the time, communist allies). On the 27th of July, 1953, a armistice was signed which ended the fighting but did not officially put an end to the war and certainly not to the simmering hostilities which it had engendered. According to the Ministry of National Defense of Republic of Korea, approximately 2.5 million civilians lost their lives to the internecine struggle.
Now, 65 years after the war and ten years after the last diplomatic summit, North and South Korea have finally vowed to end hostilities between their respective nations. A peace summit was arranged which brought North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un and South Korean leader, Moon Jae-in together at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which has served as the dividing line between the two countries for over 60 years. Upon meeting President Moon, Supreme Leader Jong-un stepped over the dividing line between the two countries and shook his former adversaries hand, smiling and then – in a theatrical move – gestured for Moon to follow him back over the line and step into North Korean territory, which the South Korean president then did; they again shook hands. To add to the weight of this symbolic gesture of good faith, the two leaders then signed a document, titled, Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula, which stated:
“The two leaders solemnly declare… that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula… a new era of peace has begun.”
The document also called for the end of all hostile actions between both countries, the reunification of N/S families separated by the war, joint efforts in diplomacy and economics and for the DMZ to be turned into a “peace zone.”
The talks were held at the South Korean, “Peace House,” where Kim Jong-un made yet another symbolic gesture by signing the abode’s “guest book.”
Both leaders have agreed to work towards the denuclearization of the peninsula. Whilst “denucleariztion” doubtless means different things to different interested parties and will likely be a subject of some contention in the coming days, this recent development prefigures a mutually beneficial future for not just the North and South Koreans, but also for the United States (which backs South Korea) and China (which supports North Korea).
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