Charles Armstrong on 26 May 2010 stated that:

The Korean War began 60 years ago on June 25, 1950, and it still hasn't ended.

Fighting on the Korean Peninsula may have stopped with a cease-fire in July 1953, but North and South Korea have remained in a tense state of armed truce ever since, with open warfare just a hair-trigger away.

So the question is:

What is the present status of the war?


3 Answers 3


Yes, the general consensus is that the war ended after the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

Both countries signed the armistice, thereby ending the war in a truce.

The Korean War, which began on June 25, 1950, when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, officially ended on July 27, 1953. At 10 a.m., in Panmunjom, scarcely acknowledging each other, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr., senior delegate, United Nations Command Delegation; North Korean Gen. Nam Il, senior delegate, Delegation of the Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Volunteers, signed 18 official copies of the tri-language Korean Armistice Agreement.

(emphasis mine)

Source: https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=85

However, this Armistice Agreement was only meant to stop hostilities and was not a permanent peace treaty between both nations. Excerpt from the treaty below:

will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved

(emphasis mine)

As such, the Korean War can be described as a "Frozen Conflict", as quoted from Wikipedia:

a frozen conflict is a situation in which active armed conflict has been brought to an end, but no peace treaty or other political framework resolves the conflict to the satisfaction of the combatants. Therefore, legally the conflict can start again at any moment, creating an environment of insecurity and instability.

(emphasis mine)

So, simply put, the armistice ended the Korean War, however, it was meant to be a temporary solution. Since both sides could not agree to a peace treaty, it is a general consensus that the war ended in 1953 after the signing of the armistice.

It's worth noting that the CNN article that you cited is an opinion piece which reflects the opinion of the author, not the actual status of the war.

  • 6
    An armistice is technically not an end to the war, but rather a end to the fighting. A peace treaty is what technically ends the war. "An armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war."
    – Semaphore
    Dec 15, 2017 at 14:28
  • 3
    No, it implies that other developments may formally end the war after an armistice - i.e., a peace treaty, which in this case failed to materialise. My point is that it's wrong to say the armistice "technically" ended the war. Of course the general consensus is that the war was over in 1953, because to all practical intents and purposes it did. But that's not what technically means.
    – Semaphore
    Dec 15, 2017 at 15:14
  • 1
    @Semaphore That makes sense, I've updated my post to reflect that, thanks
    – Panda
    Dec 15, 2017 at 15:16
  • 3
    @Semaphore There is no technical definition of a "state of war" therefore there are no technicalities involved. International law scholars have long recognized that the traditional dichotomy of "peace" and "war" is much too limited to be applicable to modern conflicts. What that means is that the omission of peace does not imply war or vice versa. Panda's assertion that the Korean war has ended is 100% correct. Dec 15, 2017 at 19:50
  • 4
    I'm sorry if I misunderstood, but you seemed to advance the mistaken idea that a peace treaty is required to "technically" end a war. The sibling answer from Joe contains the same error. A peace treaty is a sufficient condition for ending war, but it is in no way a necessary condition. Dec 15, 2017 at 21:08

An armistice is a cease fire not an end to a war. From what I have read a war is not over until a peace treaty is signed. So while it may be said that the conflict is frozen, the war is not over just hostilities. So I believe that yes, the war is not over and so must still be ongoing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Armistice_Agreement http://www.dictionary.com/browse/armistice http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/truman-declares-war-with-germany-officially-over


Being at war is a legal term in customary international law and various national laws. It is also a political term. Unless one clarifies the context the question is an artifical game of words.

  • The Korean War has been referred to as a "police action." Does that mean it wasn't really a war and therefore the war never started?
  • Would a lawyer for the US government argue that the US is "currently at war" on account of the Korean war? Compare Lee v Madigan.
  • Is the US central to the question? If at least two powers officially acknowledge a state of war between them I think it would be fair to say it exists. The US not being at war is interesting to the conflict, but perhaps not a definitive answer to whether it is or was a war.
    – user9389
    Dec 15, 2017 at 17:29
  • @notstoreboughtdirt, the original poster quoted an US news source and we're writing English, not Korean. But you are right, US oipinion is not the sole or decisive voice in this question. But the US was a key member of the UN side in the conflict. And of course multiple parties fighting in the same theater without acknowledging being in the same war would add another can of worms, cf Finland in WWII.
    – o.m.
    Dec 15, 2017 at 23:19

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