After over 2 years of negotiations in the Armistice Talks Hall (see my separate review) and the death of nearly 3 million people the two combatants in the Korean War, North Korea/China and the United Nations Command or UNC (South Korea, the USA and about 10 other “minor” participants –importantly, under command of the US and not the UN) agreed on the terms of an armistice. In simple terms, the agreement to be signed would provide for an end to hostilities (a cease-fire), the creation of a demilitarised zone, the repatriation of prisoners and an agreement to continue peace negotiations.
The Armistice Talks Hall was deemed to small for a formal signing of the negotiated agreement.
Our guide explained how the defeated United States wanted the “surrender” agreement signed outdoors such that there would be no reminder left of the shameful defeat of the US in the Korean War. North Korea, he added, insisted that the agreement be signed in a building which would remain for ever a memento of the North Korean defeat of the US.
The fact that no suitable building was available in the area was not a problem – the North Koreans built one (now the Peace Museum and subject of this review) in two days. The UNC paid for it. The building, adjacent to the Armistice Talks Hall, is basically a large shed – totally functional and appropriate to the task on hand at the time. An interesting feature is the inclusion of a peace dove above the entrance door – see main picture.
At 10 am on 27 July 1953 the armistice was signed by Nam Il, delegate of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers, and William K. Harrison Jr., United Nations Command delegate. Kim Il Sung and his Chinese counterpart were barred from attending the signing ceremony due to their demands that if they attended officials from South Korea and the press could not be present.
The wording on the steele outside the building resonates with what our military guide told us:
It was here on July 27, 1953 that the American
imperialists got down on their knees before
the heroic Chosun people to sign the ceasefire
for the war they had provoked June 25, 1950.
It is important to remember that the armistice was only a cease-fire between military forces and not an agreement between governments.
As General Clark of the UNC stated at the time “I must tell you as emphatically as I can,” in a statement, addressed to all members of the United Nations Command, “that this does not mean immediate or even early withdrawal from Korea. The conflict will not be over until the Governments concerned have reached a firm political settlement.”
I suspect not even General Clark could have imagined that over 60 years later a political settlement remains to be agreed upon and, as such, North Korea and South Korea officially remain at war.
On the tables (claimed to be the originals form 1953) in this building are two signed copies of the Armistice Agreement (one in Korean and one in English) and what are allegedly the flags displayed by the parties at the signing ceremony.
Our military guide asked us to look closely at the flags and note:
(1) that the surrendering Americans were too ashamed to use the US flag but rather decided to hide behind that of the UN, and
(2) how the UN flag had, over the last 60 years, faded to the extent that it is barely recognisable while the flag used by the North Korean delegation was as new looking as it was on the 27th July 1953.
I will leave you, Dear Reader, to draw your own conclusion on the authenticity/age of the North Korean flag based on the attached images above.
The signing pavilion is now called the Peace Museum and, in addition to the artifacts I have just referred to, it contains a large number of photos extolling the virtues and greatness of Kim Il Sung, the wickedness of the US Imperialists and shows how all the woes of life can be attributed to Uncle Sam.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my visit to Panmunjom (DMZ), North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – The Axe Murder Incident – or to start this loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – If war resumes leave the area as soon as possible!