On today’s date in 1953, U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Harrison and North Korean General Nam Il signed the Korean Armistice Agreement to end the three-year Korean War.
Escalating amid the aftershock of the Second World War, the conflict between South Korea and North Korea eventually claimed about three million casualties, including 2.5 million civilians.
Harrison represented the United Nations Command (UNC) while Nam represented the North Korean People’s Army (KPA) and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (PVA). The UNC boasted 16 armies, including those from Canada and the United States, which supplied most of the military personnel. In response, China and the Soviet Union offered support to North Korea.
Initial peace talks 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 suffered from consistent setbacks before the armistice was eventually signed in P’anmunjŏm on July 27, 1953.
Kaesong was part of pre-war South Korea but is now a part of North Korea.
Upon learning of the armistice, the KPA, PVA and UNC ceased fire near the 38th parallel, which became known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
While both sides agreed to a “complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved,” a long-term peace agreement has yet to be reached.
The DMZ has since become the world’s most heavily defended national border.
2013 SILVER DOLLAR
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 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, then 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.”
HERCULES & THE HYDRA
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.
The scene is an allegory for the perilous struggles of war and a tribute to those warriors who enter a battle freely.
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-millimetre 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 Bennett, then 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.”
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, according to Veterans Affairs Canada. Altogether, 314 Canadians died and another 1,200 more were injured during the conflict. Following the war’s end, about 7,000 Canadians continued to serve in Korea with the United Nations’ peacekeeping forces.