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Korea War Anniversary Marked by Tension

While hostilities on the Korean Peninsula ended 57 years ago, tensions between the two sides have remained for nearly six decades. In that time, the South has prospered while the North has become increasingly reclusive and aggressive at times.

Conditions inside North Korea are difficult to assess. But some people have managed to leave the country and speak out about the repressive regime of Kim Jong-Il.

In Seoul Monday to mark the anniversary, Park Sang-hak, a leader of a North Korean defectors group, said the people remaining in the North need to know about the conflict, and not just what they are being told by their government.

"Rather than telling our South Korean people, we are here today on July 27 to reveal the truth and facts to the North Korean people (about the Korean War) and to send North Korea propaganda leaflets commemorating the 57th anniversary of the signing of the cease-fire agreement," Park said.

The recent sinking of a South Korean ship and reports that say the North was responsible have added to tensions on the peninsula. Current joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States during the anniversary have led to increased rhetoric from North Korea.

Pyongyang has blamed the United States for the initial conflict and often claims victory over U.S. forces in 1953. Hong Sung Chol, an officer of North Korea's People's Army, marked the anniversary with a threat of renewed hostilities against the South and the United States.

"The US imperialists, together with their South Korean puppets, are finally staging large-scale joint military exercise in the East Sea of Korea, despite the strong opposition of Korean people and world people. This is an impure attempt to stifle the DPRK by means of armed force. If the US imperialists ignite war again, our army and people will totally uproot the source of the war, under the leadership of our brilliant commander, General Kim Jong Il." Hong added, "The US imperialists should bear in mind that there is a victorious July 27th, after June 26th (referring to claims by the North that United States started the Korean War on 26 June 1950), and they should not act recklessly."

U.S. journalist David Wallechinsky is a world renowned author, Olympic historian and the editor-in-chief of He was able to visit North Korea in 2007 as a tourist to get a glimpse inside the reclusive nation. Wallechinsky said his North Korean guides constantly had a message for his tour group.

"The Korean people are one. And that they want the two countries brought back together again. That the only reason that there is a split between North and South Korea is because of the Americans," he said. "The Americans do not want the two Koreas to come together. This is what they keep saying, the North Koreans, that America wants the Korean peninsula split. And that is the Americans would just withdraw their 35,000 troops, that the two Koreas would get together."

Wallechinsky added North Korea's propaganda is aimed at a specific audience.

"I think that it is often a mistake to believe that what they do, that what Kim Jong-Il does or what the North Korean leadership does, is for our consumption," Wallechinsky said. "It is always for domestic consumption first and foreign consumption second."

As stories of Kim Jong-Il's failing health seem to indicate a change in power is near, the structure of North Korea's leadership is vague to outside observers. It is not clear how any eventual change in power will affect relations between North and South Korea, or if it could even lead to a civil reunification in the future.

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    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.