By the terms of the armistice, the line of demarcation
between North and South Korea closely approximated the front line
as it existed at the final hour. Slanting as the line did from a
point on the west coast fifteen miles below the 38th parallel northeastward
to an east coast anchor forty miles above the parallel, the demarcation
represented a relatively small adjustment of the prewar division.
Within three days of the signing of the armistice, each opposing
force withdrew two kilometers from this line to establish a demilitarized
zone that was not to be trespassed. The armistice provisions forbade
either force to bring additional troops or new weapons into Korea,
although replacement one for one and in kind was permissible. To
oversee the enforcement of all armistice terms and to negotiate
settlements of any violations of them, a Military Armistice Commission
composed of an equal number of officers from each side was established.
This body was assisted by a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission
whose members came from Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and
Poland. Representatives of those same countries, with India furnishing
an umpire and custodial forces, formed a Neutral Nations Repatriation
Commission to handle the disposition of prisoners refusing repatriation.
Finally, a provision of the armistice recommended that the belligerent
governments convene a political conference to negotiate a final
settlement of the whole Korean question.
September 6 all prisoners wishing to be repatriated had been exchanged.
From the UNC returnees came full details of brutally harsh treatment
in enemy prison camps and of an extensive Communist indoctrination
program, of "brain-washing" techniques, designed to produce
prisoner collaboration. Several hundred U.S. returnees were investigated
on charges of collaborating with the enemy, but few were convicted.
The transfer of nonrepatriates to the Neutral Nations Repatriation
Commission was undertaken next. In the drawn out and troublesome
procedure that followed, few of the prisoners changed their minds
as officials from both sides attempted to convince former members
of their respective commands that they should return home. Of twenty-three
Americans who at first refused repatriation, two decided to return.
On February 1, 1954, the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission
dissolved itself after releasing the last of the nonrepatriates
as civilians free to decide their own destinations. The main scene
then shifted to Geneva, Switzerland, where the political conference
recommended in the armistice agreement convened on April 26. There
was a complete impasse from the beginning: the representatives of
UNC member nations wanted to reunify Korea through elections supervised
by the United Nations; the Communist delegation refused to recognize
the U.N.'s authority to deal with the matter.
conference on Korea closed June 15, 1954, with the country still
divided and with opposing forces, although their guns remained silent,
still facing each other across the demilitarized zone. The prognosis
was that this situation would continue for some time to come. The
Geneva impasse leaving Korea divided essentially along the prewar
line could scarcely be viewed as merely re-establishing the land's
status quo ante-bellum. For by the end of the war, the ROK Army
had grown to a well-organized force of sixteen divisions and was
scheduled to raise four more divisions, a force North Korea's resources
would be strained to match. Within days of the armistice, moreover,
South Korea had a mutual security pact with the United States and
a first installment, $200 million, of promised American economic
The war's impact reached far beyond Korea.
Despite criticism of the armistice by those who agreed with General
MacArthur that there was "no substitute for victory,"
the UNC had upheld the U.N. principle of suppressing armed aggression.
True, the U.N. Security Council had been able to enlist forces under
the U.N. banner in June 1950 only in the absence of the USSR veto.
Nevertheless, the UNC success strengthened the possibility of keeping
or restoring peace through the U.N. machinery.
far reaching was the war's impact on the two Great Power blocs.
The primary result for the western bloc was a decided strengthening
of the NATO alliance. Virtually without military power in June 1950,
NATO could call on fifty divisions and strong air and naval contingents
by 1953 a build-up directly attributable to the increased threat
of general war seen in the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. With
further reinforcement in the NATO forecast at the end of the Korean
War, USSR armed aggression in western Europe became unlikely. For
the east, the major result was the emergence of Communist China
as a Great Power. A steady improvement in the Chinese army and air
force during the war gave China a more powerful military posture
at war's end than when it had intervened; and its performance
in Korea, despite vast losses, won China respect as a nation to
be reckoned with not only in Asian but in world affairs. Outside
these direct impacts of the war, the relative positions of west
and east also had been affected during the war years by the development
of thermonuclear devices. The United States exploded its first such
device in 1952, the USSR in August 1953. The exact consequences
of all these changes were incalculable. But it was certain that
the cold war would continue and that both power blocs would face
new challenges and new responses.