Why The Korean War Technically Never Ended

Sandwiched between World War II and the Vietnam War, the Korean War has often been referred to as the “Forgotten War,” but its effects on modern life have been significant and enduring. As National Geographic notes, the Korean War marked the first time a U.S. president sent troops to a conflict without first seeking congressional approval. Harry Truman put boots on Korean soil without Congress’ go-ahead, and several subsequent presidents have had quite a bit of fun following his cue. It was also the first time this top-secret U.S. organization secured an early victory in its long history of spying on literally everyone.

The Korean War devastated the peninsula that comprises North and South Korea from 1950 to 1953, and when all was said and fought, the two countries found themselves at a stalemate on the 38th parallel with little more than a ceasefire to keep the powder keg from exploding again. And they’ve been that way ever since. Technically, the Korean War has never ended. It’s just been on pause for nearly seven decades. But why? Let’s take a look back through history and see.

South Korea was not on board with an armistice

As National Geographic explains, the United States, North Korea, and China all signed an armistice agreement on July 27, 1953, but South Korea did not. The country did not like the idea of a two-state solution, so no binding peace treaty was ever signed, meaning the Korean War is technically still on. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t tried to put the peninsula back together again. There were some almost successful reunification talks in 2000, then in 2018 the leaders of the two countries shook hands and hugged, offering hopes that the two Koreas may become one once again. However, that has yet to come to fruition, and there are just as many examples of hostilities between them in recent years as friendly moments.

According to The New York Times, the hopefulness from the 2018 meeting did not last. By May 2020, they were already exchanging gunfire over the border, and in June of that year, North Korea blew up a joint liaison office in the demilitarized zone, a building meant to be used for peace negotiations. The explosion was just another sad chapter in the decades-long story of the unfinished Korean War.

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