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[Lee Ki-hwan's History with a Trace] Peace Talks, Or a Matter of Stares and Seats
By Lee Ki-hwan, Culture and Sports Editor
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"The United Nations delegation took seats toward the south first, before the Communist counterpart did. The Communists were flustered and dismayed by this. A while later, they offered tea and light snacks but the U.N. delegation refused them."

On July 8, 1951, the two delegations came to the conference table to end the Korean War, which had been going on for more than a year by that time. The venue was a private house at Gwangmun-dong to the north of Gaesong in North Korea.

The U.N. delegations had a reason to take the part of the table that looked to the south: in the East, "facing south or a seating to the south" indicated a place where an emperor would have an audience with feudal lords.



The U.N. delegation's refusal to take tea and snacks had a message, too: they did not want to make any impression that they were receiving "imperial gifts" given by the Communists. The main talk was held two days later (on July 10) and the U.N. delegates put a white flag on its jeep as agreed between the two.

This was a set-up. Three North Korean trucks full of soldiers ran in front of the U.N. jeep with the white flag and slowly moved around the town (Photo). Meanwhile, the North Korean soldiers continued to cheer on the truck. A Communist cameraman took one picture after another.

The U.N. people looked exactly like "surrender delegates." It was already too late when they felt "played." After the humiliation, the U.N. pursued "seating to the south" once more. But the Communists would not to be played again and led their counterpart to the south of the table, facing north.

Then things became weirder. The shorter Communists were looking over the taller U.N. delegates. It turned out that the former placed chairs shorter by four inches on the side where the latter was to be seated. The U.N. protested.

But the Communist cameraman had already taken pictures of his fellow people "seated on a high chair facing south, looking down on the defeated." At the 20th talk held on August 10, something happened that might deserve a Guinness record.

Vice Admiral and Senior United Nations Delegate Turner C. Joy said, "The Communist demand to set the pre-war 38th parallel as the military demarcation line is no longer a subject for discussion."

Then the Communist delegates started silently staring at the U.N. delegates with their arms crossed; the latter stared back. This "staring match" continued for two hours and eleven minutes.

Since the peace talk began in July 1951, the war was at a standstill, a same state as that in the current demilitarized zone. The young men from 19 countries had to fight a war of attrition to take the high ground in the armistice talks. Casualties from both parties steadily increased.

The U.S. army alone lost a total of 60,000 soldiers during the period of armistice talks. All these happened when the responsible parties spent time at the conference fighting in a juvenile war on pride and a staring match.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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