The end of World War II marked a turning point in American history. While many Americans moved forward and focused on having peace in the nation, tensions were growing between the Soviet Union and the US. At the conclusion of WWII, the Korean Peninsula was divided into two zones by the 38th parallel. The northern part was occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern part belonged to the United States. Under the presidency of Harry S. Truman, some Americans feared the Soviet Union would move into other nations and try to take over. Truman wanted to contain communism in not only the US but in foreign countries as well.

On June 25, 1950 the Korean War began when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) crossed the 38th parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea (South Korea). President Truman feared this was the Soviet Union’s attempt to take over the world so he gave the orders for American troops to join the rest of the United Nations military to help South Korea,  “If we let Korea down the Soviets will keep right on going and swallow up one place after another.”

In the beginning of the war, the Americans and the rest of the Allies’ tactics were to defend South Korea and drive out the communists. North Korea pushed their way into Seoul the capital of South Korea which forced the Allies backwards. In order to regain control of the Capital, the Allies decided to change their war plan. North Korea was pushed out of Seoul with an assault at Inchon that drove them back to their side of 38th parallel. The fighting in the war was now pushed to the North Korean side which worried their bordering country, China. The Chinese began to fear for their territory being invaded by the Allies, so they joined the Korean War when they sent troops to North Korea to help them fight off the Allies.

After a year of fighting in the Korean War, President Truman wanted to end the war and he began the talk of finding peace between the countries. Neither side could all agree on an agreement so the fighting continued for another two years. In 1952, during the US presidential election, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president. Eisenhower was determined to establish peace in Korea and end the Korean War. He picked up where Truman left off and continued to negotiate for peace between the countries. Finally, on July 27, 1953 the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed.  After 3 years of fighting, the United States, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, and South Korea all signed the Armistice in Panmunjom. The US Army Lieutenant General William Harrison Jr. represented the United Nations Command (UNC) and signed for the United States, South Korea, and the Allies. Peng Dehuai signed the Armistice for the Chinese and Kim II-sung signed for the North Koreans.

The Armistice Agreement:

  • Suspended open hostilities
  • Withdrew all military forces and equipment from a 4,000-meter-wide zone, establishing the Demilitarized Zone as a buffer between the forces
  • Prevented both sides from entering the air, ground, or sea areas under control of the other
  • Arranged the release and repatriation of prisoners of war and displaced persons
  • Established the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) and other agencies to discuss any violations and to ensure adherence to the truce terms


The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ):

Immediately after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, the Korean Demilitarized Zone went into effect. The DMZ is a border barrier that runs across the Korean Peninsula and divides North and South Korea. In the Armistice, both North and South Korea agreed to move their troops back 2,000 meters from the 38th parallel; this created the buffer zone. Located within the DMZ is the village of Panmunjom where the Armistice was signed. Panmunjom is considered to be the “truce village” because this is the central location of conferences that take place when issues arise between North and South Korea, their allies, and the United Nations.  


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