Armistice Agreement for the Restoration of the South Korean State (1953)

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Citation: Korean War Armistice Agreement, July 27, 1953; Treaties and Other International Agreements Series #2782; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.

Photograph, "POWs (recently repatriated in the UN POW exchange) pose for a group photograph with their flight nurses at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan, 09/05/1953"; NWDNS-342-AF-84343AC; Records of United States Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations; Record Group 342; National Archives.
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This armistice signed on July 27, 1953, formally ended the war in Korea. North and South Korea remain separate and occupy almost the same territory they had when the war began.

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The Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950, when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, officially ended on July 27, 1953. At 10 a.m., in Panmunjom, scarcely acknowledging each other, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr., senior delegate, United Nations Command Delegation; North Korean Gen. Nam Il, senior delegate, Delegation of the Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Volunteers, signed 18 official copies of the tri-language Korean Armistice Agreement.

It was the end of the longest negotiated armistice in history: 158 meetings spread over two years and 17 days. That evening at 10 p.m. the truce went into effect. The Korean Armistice Agreement is somewhat exceptional in that it is purely a military document—no nation is a signatory to the agreement. Specifically the Armistice Agreement:

  1. suspended open hostilities;
  2. withdrew all military forces and equipment from a 4,000-meter-wide zone, establishing the Demilitarized Zone as a buffer between the forces;
  3. prevented both sides from entering the air, ground, or sea areas under control of the other;
  4. arranged release and repatriation of prisoners of war and displaced persons; and
  5. established the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) and other agencies to discuss any violations and to ensure adherence to the truce terms.

The armistice, while it stopped hostilities, was not a permanent peace treaty between nations.

President Eisenhower, who was keenly aware of the 1.8 million American men and women who had served in Korea and the 36,576 Americans who had died there, played a key role in bringing about a cease-fire. In announcing the agreement to the American people in a television address shortly after the signing, he said, in part,

Soldiers, sailors and airmen of sixteen different countries have stood as partners beside us throughout these long and bitter months. In this struggle we have seen the United Nations meet the challenge of aggression—not with pathetic words of protest, but with deeds of decisive purpose. And so at long last the carnage of war is to cease and the negotiation of the conference table is to begin. . . . [We hope that] all nations may come to see the wisdom of composing differences in this fashion before, rather than after, there is resort to brutal and futile battle.

Now as we strive to bring about that wisdom, there is, in this moment of sober satisfaction, one thought that must discipline our emotions and steady our resolution. It is this: We have won an armistice on a single battleground—not peace in the world. We may not now relax our guard nor cease our quest.

President Eisenhower concluded his announcement by quoting from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

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