The two Koreas on Monday celebrated the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, with commemorations on each side as jarringly different as the current state of the Korean Peninsula separated by economic and ideological disparities and military confrontation.
Seoul marked the 62nd anniversary as the "day for the signing of the armistice agreement and the participation of the U.N," while Pyongyang called it a "victory day against the US"
At a ceremony hosted by the South Korean government in southern Seoul, war veterans, active-duty soldiers, citizens and government officials celebrated the anniversary of the truce. They also observed the UN participation in the war with descendants of war veterans joining the colorful event.
During his commemorative speech, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said that the government would pay more attention to honoring the spirits of Korean War veterans and the ultimate sacrifices of the fallen soldiers.
"South Korea's economic development was something unimaginable when the cease-fire was signed. Your noble sacrifices made the foundation for Korea's advancements," he said. "The Republic of Korea government and our citizens will do our best to honor your sacrifices."
Noting that 62 years after the deal was signed, peace on the peninsula is still unstable, Hwang also called on the North to renounce its nuclear ambitions and open the "future of coprosperity" through increased exchanges and cooperation.
During the ceremony, the Seoul government conferred the order of military merit to four former UN soldiers including Hector Cafferata who joined the fierce Jangjin Lake Battle during the war. Winter Marshall was awarded the order of civil merit for his contribution to the modernization of the Korean Air Force.
The government invited 180 war veterans from 21 nations who fought under the UN banner for South Korea. Since 2013, the government has observed the day for the UN participation in the war, together with the day for the signing of the armistice.
Later in the day, the UN Command held a separate ceremony to mark the signing of the armistice agreement at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom within the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. The event was hosted by 7th US Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy.
Meanwhile, to mark the "victory day," North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, where the embalmed bodies of North Korea's national founder and his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his father Kim Jong-il lie in state.
The North has observed the victory day, arguing that the cease-fire was signed as it won in a war against the US
The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim laid a wreath before the statues of the two former leaders, to express his "noble respect" to them.
Accompanying him were top military figures including Hwang Pyong-so, the director of the military's General Political Bureau, Park Yong-sik, the minister of the People's Armed Forces, and Kim Won-hong, head of the State Security Ministry.
A day earlier, Kim attended a chorus competition for college students, which was held to mark the victory anniversary in the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang.
After two years of grueling negotiations over the demilitarized zone, military demarcation line, prisoners of war and other truce-related issues, UN Commander Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, North Korea's Supreme Commander Kim Il-sung and Peng Dehuai, the commander of the Chinese People's Volunteers, inked the armistice, leaving an unsteady peace with the two countries still technically at war.