The end of the Korean War
Fighting continued for another two years along the border between the ROK and North Korea with American planes bombing the cities of the north. From as early as October 1951, armistice talks were periodically convened, but they always faltered. In November 1952, however, Eisenhower was elected president of the USA, replacing Truman. Stalin died in March 1953 and within two weeks, the USSR withdrew its support from North Korea. That same year, the USA hinted at the use of nuclear weapons, and on 27 July, a ceasefire agreement known as the Panmunjom Armistice was signed by representatives of the UN, North Korea and China.
The Korean conflict had been devastating for both sides. The civilian populations of both the ROK and North Korea had suffered massive social and economic dislocation; according to UN estimates, three million Koreans (soldiers and civilians on both sides) had been killed. Chinese deaths were estimated by the UN at 900,000; the USA reported 33,629 of its own dead. The UN also recorded the deaths of 686 British troops with a further 1,102 missing in action or prisoners-of-war.
For more on the Korean conflict, try the following websites:
Please note that these websites give a variety of perspectives on the Korean conflict. The National Archives cannot guarantee their accuracy or objectivity.
An uneasy peace
Theoretically the two Koreas have remained at war ever since the uneasy armistice of July 1953; it was not until 1991 that a non-aggression pact was signed between them.
In June 2000, the South Korean president, Kim Dae-jung, met with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, for a three day summit on reconciliation which discussed not only greater economic co-operation and the opening of cross-border links but also the possible reunification of the peninsular in the future. It was also agreed to reunite some of the families that had been separated since the 1950s. The South Korean president described the meeting as 'the biggest event of our history…to us a new day is beginning'. This 'sunshine policy' was broadly supported by the USA, which maintains a strong military presence in South Korea, and shortly afterwards, security talks resumed between the Americans and North Korea with particular emphasis on the latter's nuclear programme.
In 2001, however, with a change in the American administration and the resultant hardening of American policy, talks between the two Koreas broke down. Tensions in the peninsula were exacerbated by the 11 September terrorist attacks on the USA (which led, amongst other things, to an increased state of military alert in South Korea) and by the American president George W. Bush's subsequent naming of North Korea as part of 'an axis of evil.' In April 2002, however, the two Koreas met again and the USA and North Korea subsequently agreed to renew security talks.