Saturday, July 27, 2013

They Call the Wind Korea

"Out here they got a name for rain
For wind and fire only
But when you're lost and all alone
There ain't no word but lonely"

They Call the Wind Maria
From Paint Your Wagon (1951)

Sixty years ago today, the final armistice was signed in Panmunjom, putting the Korean War (which had been labeled a "police action" by then–President Harry Truman) on hold.

As James Ragland of the Dallas Morning News observes, the war/conflict/police action in Korea is often called "the forgotten war." In fact, had it not been for the movie "M*A*S*H" and the long–running TV series it spawned, most people of my generation probably never would have heard of it.

It all ended long before my time, of course, but, based on my studies, Korea received far less attention than either World War II, which preceded it, or the Vietnam War, which followed it — so, in the context of history, I guess it really has been forgotten — or, at least, ignored.

It's been given a lot of names, too.

South Koreans call it "the 6–2–5 Upheaval" — like the American shorthand of 9–1–1 for the hijackings that occurred in 2001, it is a reference to the date of the North's invasion of the South (June 25, 1950).

The North Koreans call it the "Fatherland Liberation War." (Eric Talmadge of the Associated Press reports that the official commemoration in North Korea was a "painstakingly choreographed military pageant intended to strike fear into North Korea's adversaries and rally its people behind young ruler Kim Jong Un.")

In China — where the Communists won their clash with the Nationalists in the late 1940s with North Korea's help — it is called the "War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea." The Chinese returned the favor and lent support to the North Koreans in their battle with the South.

Battle, police action, conflict, war — whatever you want to call it, Ann Curry and Becky Bratu of NBC News report that it has not been forgotten where it was fought; there, the armistice's anniversary, they report, was observed "with pomp and massive celebrations."

As it should be. An estimated 2.5 million civilians were killed or wounded during the conflict. Its end was worth celebrating then as now.

Actually, though, the war never ended. Instead, an uneasy peace has descended on that trouble peninsula, and the uneasiness has only increased with the introduction of nuclear weapons into the equation.

See, what was signed 60 years ago today was an armistice, not a surrender.

An armistice is defined as "a temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement of the warring parties," and Curry and Bratu point out, "[A] peace treaty has yet to be negotiated."

Negotiations have been continuing between North Korea and South Korea in the same building where the armistice was signed 60 years ago today.

There were often jokes on M*A*S*H about the maddeningly slow pace of the peace talks.

But what hasn't been happening for the last six decades is no joke.

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