Editor’s Note: As the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the Center for the National Interest’s Korean Studies team decided to ask dozens of the world’s top experts a simple question: Do you believe that the Korean War will finally come to an end before its next major anniversary in 2025? The below piece is an answer to that question. Please click here to see even more perspectives on this important topic.
The demilitarized zone is a gash across the Korean Peninsula that divides the Korean people and severs the Korean soul. Will the tenuous peace endure in its present form, or could the war finally be brought to a conclusion?
Concluding the Korean War could be as simple and simplistic as signing a short declaration that hostilities have ended. Such a feel-good endeavor would undoubtedly trigger claims that swords were beaten into ploughshares as well as calls for the distribution of Nobel Peace Prizes to all involved. However, reducing the actual threat of war on the Korean Peninsula would be far more complicated. Peace is not simply the absence of war, so, if you want peace badly enough, you may end up with a bad peace.
Some argue that a peace declaration would stimulate progress in stalled denuclearization negotiations. Advocates downplay concerns over the ramifications of declaring an end to the Korean War, claiming that the document would be purely symbolic, without any real effects or consequences. But they have yet to identify any tangible benefits to signing a peace declaration: neither a specific quid pro quo that North Korea would provide in negotiations nor a change to expect in North Korean behavior or policy as a result of such a document.