Remembering the ‘Korean Armistice’

  • Published
  • By Mr. Sonny Park
  • Kunsan Airman and Family Readiness Center
July in Korea is typically a hot and humid summer month in the middle of monsoon season. It was unusually dry and pleasant in 1953. I was a first grade schoolboy living amidst the rubble and devastation of Seoul. I was still overwhelmed by the loss of my parents just three years prior, during the beginning of the so-called “Forgotten War.”

I had been watching frequent protests and rallies in and around Tapgol Park, an area near my school historically known as the national protest site. The slogans and outcries were to continue the war and stop the cease fire agreement between the United Nations and North Korean forces. Protesters screamed such an agreement would create a divided Korea and political instability on the peninsula. I remember watching protesters bite their fingers, drawing blood in order to write these protests in Hangul and Hanja (Chinese character) on cloth banner sheets. The emotional crowd chanted, “We oppose the cease fire; we need to unite the peninsula at all costs.” These demonstrations occurred for several weeks before and after the agreement.

On July 27, 1953, a cease-fire is exactly what happened. The United Nations (represented by the United States), communist China and the North Korean delegates signed the document, thus creating the Armistice. South Korea was not one of the signatories.

As I look back, I realize that nearly 37,000 Americans and more than a million Koreans, including my parents, died in a period of three years. I wonder how many more would have been killed if the cease-fire had not been declared. As a Korean-American, my heart goes out to those brave American soldiers who traveled thousands of miles away from their loved ones and perished in a strange land called “The Land of the Morning Calm.” On behalf of all Koreans, I want to assure those honorable men of the United States Armed Forces that their sacrifices were not in vain. Their selfless dedication and loyal service to protect freedom and democracy are appreciated more than they realize.

During the war, many battles were fought in places such as Suwon, Osan, the Pusan Perimeter, Inchon Landing, Liberation of Seoul, Heartbreak Ridge, Punchbowl and the Iron Triangle. Many other events followed as the two sides decided to exchange the wounded and live Prisoners of War soon after the Armistice. U.S. Army helicopters ferried many POWs from Panmumjom to a landing site in the middle of a Seoul school-yard, only a half-mile from where I lived with my grandparents. After the cloud of dust settled, I could see the astronaut-like pilots who flew these strange creatures and they fascinated me to no end.

Many years later, as fate turns out, I was to immigrate to the U.S. with the help of foster parents, I made my dream come true and became a U.S. Army helicopter pilot.