OTD: Korean Armistice Agreement ends Korean War

On today’s date in 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed by U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Harrison, who represented the United Nations Command Command, and North Korean General Nam Il, who represented the North Korean People’s Army (KPA) and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (PVA).

The armistice, which was signed in P’anmunjŏm, ended the three-year conflict between South Korea and North Korea. The war claimed more than three million casualties, including 2.5 million civilians that were killed or wounded.

The United Nations Command included 16 armies, including Canada and the U.S., which supplied most of the military personnel. In response, China and the Soviet Union offered support to North Korea.

Initial talks concerning an armistice began in the former Korean capital city of Kaesong on July 10, 1951. Two weeks later, a five-part agenda began guiding the negotiation, which had its share of setbacks, before the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953.

Kaesong was part of pre-war South Korea but is now a part of North Korea.

Upon hearing of the armistice, the KPA, the PVA and the United Nations Command ceased fire near the 38th parallel, which upon agreeing to the armistice became known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The armistice saw both sides agree to a “complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved”; however, a long-term peace agreement has yet to be reached. The armistice also saw the creation of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which is the world’s most heavily defended national border.


In 2013, to honour Canada’s Korean War veterans, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a silver dollar commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

Unveiled at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, the coin features an adaptation of the reverse of the original Korea Medal awarded to all Commonwealth forces who served in the war. The coin’s depicts the same effigy that appeared on the original medal—the 1953 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Mary Gillick.

“During this, the Year of the Korean War Veteran, our government is pleased that the Royal Canadian Mint is honouring Canada’s Korean War veterans with a new collector coin commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice,” said Steven Blaney, former minister of Veterans Affairs. “This inspiring silver coin is an excellent tribute to the more than 26,000 Canadian men and women in uniform who came to the aid of South Koreans during the Korean War, and in particular the 516 Canadians who gave their lives in service to defend the values of peace and freedom.”

UN delegate William Harrison (seated left) and Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army delegate General Nam Il (seated right) sign the Korean Armistice Agreement at P’anmunjŏm, Korea, on July 27, 1953.

UN delegate William Harrison (seated left) and Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army delegate General Nam Il (seated right) sign the Korean Armistice Agreement at P’anmunjŏm on today’s date in 1953.


In adapting the Korea Medal design for this coin, Mint engravers preserved Edward Carter Preston’s original depiction of Hercules, the mythological Greek warrior, slaying a hydra-headed monster as an allegory for the perilous struggles of war and a tribute to those who freely enter battle. In addition, the original engraving of “KOREA” has been expanded to include “CORÉE”, to reflect Canada’s official bilingualism.

Along with the Gillick effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, the word “CANADA” appeared on the Korea Medal’s obverse in order to distinguish medals awarded to Canadian military personnel. This coin has a mintage of 10,000 pieces, a weight of 23.17 grams and a 36.07-mm diameter.

“The Royal Canadian Mint has honoured Canada’s veterans through many coins in recent years and it is proud to honour them once more with a special edition silver dollar commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean Armistice,” said Ian E. Bennett, former Mint president and CEO. “By preserving the central design of the original Korea Medal awarded to Commonwealth forces who served in the Korean War and donating part of the proceeds from the sale of each coin to Canadian Korean War Veteran organizations, the Mint is remembering and thanking thousands of Canadian men and women for their historic efforts and sacrifices.”

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, nearly 22,000 Canadians served in Korea in the Canadian Army while more than 3,500 served in the Royal Canadian Navy and more than 1,100 in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Altogether, 314 Canadians lost their lives, and more than 1,200 more were injured during the conflict. Following the war’s end, about 7,000 Canadians continued to serve in Korea with United Nations’ peacekeeping forces.

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