While hostilities between the two Korean states and their allies tended to cease after the Armistice of 1953, the Korean War/Fatherland Liberation War continues to rage on paper and its effects whilst not often deadly, have led to the all too painful development of a divided and mutually hostile Korean peninsula. Today, the realities which many felt were set in stone after 1953 are rapidly changing. The so-called “demilitarised zone” separating a politically divided Korea is now home to joint patrols where soldiers from both sides interact with one another whilst embracing a spirit of peace and fraternity.
Today, rather than mining the border or building ramparts, the South Korea government has begun the building of a new railway link that will allow both Korean states to at long last have a direct connection to one another. For Koreans themselves, the peace process is already considered largely irreversible. Although both sides are aware of various external pressures that would retard the progress of the peace process, there is simultaneously a clear commitment from both South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in as well as DPRK (North Korea) Chairman Kim Jong-un, which makes it clear that the Korean leadership like the Korean people, never want to return to a protracted age of hostility and suspicion, but instead want to consistently move forward in a direction of greater connectivity, openness and shared human-to-human contact.
On the 27th of January, Kim Jong-un’s private train and Donald Trump’s Air Force One will arrive in Hanoi for the second ever meeting between a sitting American President and DPRK leader. Donald Trump has spoken of his general optimism regarding the second meeting while some have quietly suggested that it may be an opportunity to ready a final treaty which will formally end the War in Korea that until now has not been formally ended.
Beyond symbolism, a formal end to the War would legally reinforce the attitudes of the vast majority of the Korean people, in respect of forever shutting the doors to the past. By ending the War, the UN itself will no longer formally recognise Pyongyang and Seoul as two parties at war, but would instead allow both Korean states to engage in a specific process of normalising diplomatic and economic relations at a time when the de-nuclearisation of the DPRK progresses at a pace which Donald Trump has conceded will be gradual, but one which nevertheless has the full support of Kim Jong-un and the wider world.
Even if War does not end next week, it ought to end this year. Just as the inauguration of a long awaited peace process was in many ways the most important global event of 2018, in order to maintain the positive momentum created by last year’s history making events, 2019 ought to be marked as a year when War in Korea is ended, with an aim to create a peninsula on which there will never again be an armed conflict.
It is not entirely possible to predict just what Kim and Trump will discuss or achieve next week in Vietnam, but if all sides including Washington, Pyongyang and Seoul are confident that the War can end sooner rather than later, there is no reason why this lofty goal is nevertheless not fully attainable during the course of this year.