In every war, there’s supposed to be in a winner.

In Korea, the decision has been on hold for 50 years. Peace was brought by the Armistice Agreement, a document that ended the fighting on July 27, 1953 at 10 p.m. but also left Korea unnaturally divided.

It was signed 12 hours earlier at a meeting at Panmunjom, the truce village that straddles the border of both Koreas. Wordlessly, military commanders from North Korea, China and the American-led U.N. Command signed 18 copies in 10 minutes.

The armistice — an imperfect code of rules designed to merely separate forces — was supposed to only last a couple years until a permanent peace treaty was signed. No one guessed it would last 50 years.

Its legacy is visible in the 151 miles of razor-tipped fencing along the southern border of the Demilitarized Zone. The 2½-mile-wide zone was established as a buffer between North and South Korea, a mine-filled no-man’s land.

With time, parts of the Armistice Agreement became archaic, and some duties are performed by the U.N. Command ceremoniously but without consequence. Each week as detailed in the agreement, troops strength numbers are delivered to a North Koreans mailbox in Panmunjom.

It’s overflowing. The North Koreans don’t bother to pick it up.

The armistice also established the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, designed to investigate armistice violations in both North and South Korea. North Korea kicked the Czech Republic representatives out of the country in 1993.

In 1995, they drove Polish representatives out after shutting off the water to their camp.

Swiss and Swedish officers sit down at 10 a.m. in a Panmunjom conference building every Wednesday for a meeting of the NNSC. But since there are no reps in North Korea, no one shows up. But it shows how nations and the U.N. Command follow the armistice to the letter, often to North Korea’s irritation. In 1994, North Korea called the armistice “a worthless piece of paper.”

That year, it then withdrew from the Military Armistice Commission, established to discuss violations of the truce. North Korea meets irregularly with U.N. Command officials to discuss violations, such as quarrels over the Northern Limit Line, the invisible border in the Yellow Sea. But their participation is often finicky, with strategic last-minute cancellations and rescheduling.

The U.N. Command sees the armistice as a vital component to keeping the peace in South Korea. The North Koreans would like to see nothing less than a disintegration of the agreement and withdrawal of foreign faces along the DMZ.

But the seemingly eternal stalemate between North and South continues.

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