Korean War never ended, still ongoing - The Korea Times
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Korean War never ended, still ongoing

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The following is the fifth in a series of articles to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, which falls today. ― ED.

By Jung Sung-ki
Staff reporter

Sixty years ago today, North Korean troops stormed across the 38th parallel into South Korea, provoking a three-year conflict that culminated in an armistice in 1953.

The Korean War never officially ended, but the military tension between the two Koreas has rather mounted in recent years due to the North's continued provocations near the sea and inland borders.

During the previous liberal administrations of President Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, talks for replacing the current armistice with a permanent peace regime were underway but little progress has been made since then.

Chances for both Koreas to engage in such talks are becoming slim, experts say, as long as the North Korean military violates the Armistice Agreement and continues to develop nuclear weapons programs.

In its most recent act of provocation, North Korea allegedly sank the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 of 104 sailors aboard.

A Seoul-led multinational team concluded last month that the ship was torpedoed by a North Korean submarine, a clear violation of the armistice.

Both South and North Korea vowed cutting ties and possible military actions in worst-case scenarios.

"It's urgent and important indeed to replace the armistice with a peace treaty to stop cross-border conflicts down the road as well as clean up the vestiges of the Cold War," said Baek Seung-joo, a senior researcher at the state-funded Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA). "To that end, building political and military trust between the two sides and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue are prerequisites."

Baek said establishing an international cooperation framework to help guarantee peace on the peninsula is also necessary.

"There should be an alternative mechanism to restore stability on the peninsula when South and North Korea fail to maintain peace," he said, adding such a move could be set up by the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, or the United Nations.

North Korea is reluctant to discuss a peace treaty with South Korea, citing the latter's absence in the signing of the armistice, though participating nations at the six-way denuclearization talks agreed in 2005 that the six nations, including South Korea, should negotiate a permanent peace regime. The six-party talks include the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

The multinational talks have been stalled as Pyongyang rejects living up to its denuclearization pledge in return for diplomatic and economic incentives.

Former Unification Minister Lim Dong-won insisted that the Lee Myung-bak government should advocate the previous administrations' "Sunshine" policy of engaging the communist North to deter North Korea's provocations.

"As we spend defense expenditures to achieve peace, there should be costs to achieve reunification," Lim said in a recent radio interview. Lim also served as director of the National Intelligence Service during the Kim Dae-jung administration and played a key role in arranging the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 as Kim's special envoy to Pyongyang.

Lim said efforts by Washington and Pyongyang to normalize ties are a key to resolving North Korean problems.

Earlier, Lim said the first step toward achieving a peaceful reunification of the two Koreas is a declaration by the leaders of South and North Korea calling for an end to the Korean War.

Commemorative events

Scores of ceremonies and events have been taking place to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, often called "The Forgotten War" because the conflict was sandwiched between World War II and the contentious Vietnam War.

The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs has been holding commemorative events in the 21 nations that participated in the war under the U.N. flag. The program includes inviting 2,400 Korean War veterans abroad to visit Seoul.

In a show of deep appreciation of the sacrifices and contributions of the 21 U.N. nations, the government will publish a full-page "Thank You" notice in 30 newspapers in the 21 countries.

In addition, President Lee Myung-bak will send a letter of appreciation to 100,000 foreign Korea War veterans.

Also, the Seoul government launched scholarship programs for children of foreign Korean War veterans.


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