The Korean War Armistice Explained

Sixty-five years ago, on July 27, 1953, North and South Korea signed an armistice – a formal agreement made by opposing sides in a war – which ended the Korean War.

A newspaper headline announcing the Korean War’s end.

Negotiations for the armistice spanned over two years, the longest negotiated armistice in history.

Over those two years, the U.S., North and South Korea met in Panmunjom on the border between the two countries. There were 158 meetings before any of the parties agreed to sign the document. During the meetings, all parties sought to make an agreement that would suspend open hostilities, arrange the release and repatriation of prisoners of war and prevent all sides from entering areas under control of the other.

In the final meeting, the Korean armistice accomplished those goals and established the Military Armistice Commission, as well as other agencies to discuss any violations and ensure adherence to the truce terms. Additionally, the armistice made a 4,000-meter-wide zone where all military forces and equipment would not be allowed as part of the agreement to suspend hostilities.

The Korean armistice was signed by U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison Jr. of the United Nations Command Delegation and North Korean Gen. Nam Il, who also represented China, putting an end to the roughly three years of fighting of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Army Gen. Mark W. Clark signs the Korean War Armistice agreement on July 27, 1953, after two years of negotiations. Navy Museum photo

The Korean armistice is unique because it is purely a military document. No nation signed the agreement.

After the armistice was signed, a new border between North and South Korea was drawn, giving South Korea additional territory and establishing the Demilitarized Zone between the two nations. The armistice ceased a war that costed the lives of millions of Koreans, Chinese and Americans.

Read more: ‘The Forgotten War’ Explained on Armistice Day

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