Post-1953

 

1950s

1953: Germany notified UNC Headquarters of its intent to set up a field hospital in South Korea to support UNC soldiers participating in the Korean War.

July 27, 1953: With the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, UN Member States began a withdrawal of their combat and medical forces from the South Korea. By the end of 1956, military contingents from 17 nations had returned to their homelands. Sweden withdrew its medical support in May 1955, but had already sent military representatives to Korea to participate with Switzerland, Poland, and Czechoslovakia to form the Armistice-mandated Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission and its subordinate Neutral Nations Inspection Teams to supervise, observe, inspect, and investigate Armistice compliance.

October 1953: South Africa's air contingent departed South Korea. 

November 1953: France's ground contingent departed South Korea. A small contingent of 50x personnel remained.  

February 1954: Australia's troop contingent departed South Korea, but maintained a small accredited liaison group.

March 1954: New Zealand's naval contingent departed South Korea. 

July 1954: Turkey's troop contingents departed South Korea; only a small accredited liaison group remained. 

November 1954: New Zealand's ground contingent departed South Korea. 

December 1954:  Canada's ground troop contingent departed South Korea.

December 1954: Netherland's troop contingent departed South Korea. 

1954-1959: The German medical support unit, consisting of 117 doctors, nurses, and technicians, operated as the West German Red Cross Hospital, treating 300,000 patients and assisting with over 6,000 births while stationed in Busan.

May 1955: Philippines' ground contingent departed South Korea; only a small accredited liaison group remained. 

June 1955: BELUX Battalion (Belgium and Luxembourg) departed South Korea.

September 1955: Canada's naval contingent departed South Korea. 

October 1955: Colombia's naval contingent departed South Korea. 

December 1955: Greece's ground contingent departed South Korea. 

June 1957: Canada's medical detachment departed South Korea; only a small accredited liaison group remained. 

July 1, 1957: United States Forces Korea (USFK) was established with the mission of supporting UNC by providing trained and ready forces for the defense of South Korea.

July 1, 1957: Three bases were designated UN bases in Japan: Camp Zama, Yokosuka Naval Base, and Sasebo Naval Base.
 

1960s

June 1964: France's small contingent of 50 personnel departed South Korea. 

January 1965: Ethiopia's troop contingent departed South Korea.

July 1966: Turkey's troop contingent departed South Korea.

October 28, 1969: Yokota Air Base, Japan was designated a UN base.
 

1970s

May 15, 1972: Three bases were designated UN bases: Kadena Air Base, Futenma Air Station, and White Beach Area (now White Beach Naval Base).

June 1972: Thailand's ground troops contingent departed South Korea. 

1974: Thailand's air nursing teams departed South Korea.

June 1974:  Thailand's air force contingent departed South Korea; only a small accredited liaison group remained. 

November 15, 1974:  On November 15, 1974, a United Nations Command Demilitarized Zone police patrol discovered a tunnel constructed by North Korea about 1,000 metres south-east of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) marker number 0270. As the patrol started to investigate the tunnel, it was fired upon by a North Korean guard post across the MDL.

November 20, 1974: United Nations Command Demilitarized Zone police patrol re-investigated the discovered North Korean incursion tunnel.  During the exploration of the tunnel, the North Korean People's Army (KPA) detonated an explosive device, killing U.S. Navy Commander Robert M. Ballinger and ROK Marine Corps Major Kim, Hah-chul.  The explosion also wounded five Americans and one South Korean from United Nations Command. 

Another and larger tunnel was detected at a depth "of about 50 metres and about 900 metres south of MDL marker number 0597" in late November 1974. (Source: Report on the Activities of The United Nations Command to The President of The United Nations Security Council, 31 October 1975, p.5.)

June 30, 1975:  "As the 364th meeting of the Military Armistice Commission was coming to an end on 30 June 1975, North Korean press and North Korean military personnel committed an unprovoked attack on a United States military officer in the area adjacent to the Military Armistice Commission conference room. Even after he was rendered helpless and seriously injured, at least one North Korean soldier continued to kick him in an obvious attempt to kill or maim him." The officer was purportedly U.S. Army Major W. D. Henderson, and suffered a crushed larynx and was evacuated by helicopter. (Source: Report on the Activities of The United Nations Command to The President of The United Nations Security Council, 31 October 1975, p.6.)

August 18, 1976: Captain Arthur Bonifas and First Lieutenant Mark Barrett, who were part of a 15-man tree trimming team, were murdered by members of the Korean People’s Army in the Joint Security Area. North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, delivered an apology.

September 22, 1976: A Korean War Monument in Busan was dedicated to the five countries (Denmark, India, Italy, Norway, and Sweden), who sent medical personnel and established medical centers to support UNC during the Korean War. A congratulatory speech was delivered by General Stillwell at the special event attended by Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of Defense, Hon Suh and ambassadors from the five nations.

November 8, 1978: The Republic of Korea (ROK)-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) was established as a bilateral warfighting command. Thus, CFC became responsible for the deterrence and preparations for the defense of South Korea.  With the establishment of the CFC, UNC's role shifted to maintaining and enforcing the Armistice Agreement.  As well as, serving as the coordinating headquarters for contributing and integrating multinational military forces in support of the combined forces of South Korea and the United States. 
 

1980s

While the Philippines, Thailand and United Kingdom withdrew their combat forces, they retained small contingents to man the UNC Honor Guard, along with military contingents from South Korea and the U.S. In July 1993, United Kingdom fully withdrew its contingent. Today, the Philippines and Thailand join South Korea and the U.S. in continuing this important mission.

November 23, 1984: During a Korean People’s Army (KPA)/Chinese Volunteer Army (CPV) sponsored tour, a tourist from a KPA/CPV sponsored tour sprinted the length of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) conference building crossing the Military Demarcation Line yelling to United Nations Commands (UNC) guards for help in English. A UNC guard ran with the tourist toward check point number four. In the ensuing melee, several KPA guards penetrated deep into UNC's portion of the Demilitarized Zone pursuing and shooting at the tourist and UNC security guard. Both sides exchanged gunfire, which resulted in the deaths of one UNC guard, ROK Army Corporal Jang, Myong-ki. and several KPA soldiers. One other UNC guard, U.S. Army Private Michael Burgoyne, was wounded.  Approximately, 30 minutes later a cease fire was approved.


June 1985: American and Korean soldiers of United Nations Command Support Group-Joint Security Area (UNCSG-JSA), assisted farmers by transplanting rice shoots from nurseries to paddies in the village of Taeseong-dong located within the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Captain Epps, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, led a group of 80 ROK and U.S. officers and enlisted men planting rice in a 36,000 square foot paddy.

1986: France reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 

1987: Colombia reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 

February 1988: United Nations Command called the 441st Military Armistice Commission meeting on February 1988 to condemn a terrorist team from North Korea for the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858, which killed 115 passengers on November 29, 1987. The intent of the terrorist act was to undermine the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
 

1990s

1991: UNC designated a ROK Military Officer as the Senior Member to the Military Armistice Commission (MAC); United Nations Command hands over primary responsibility for frontline Demilitarized Zone security to ROK military in all areas but the Joint Security Area; ROK and DPRK sign the Agreement on reconciliation, non-aggression, and exchanges and cooperation between South and North (known colloquially as the "Basic Agreement").

April 10, 1993: The Czech delegation departed the Korean Peninsula after the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and Chinese Volunteer Army (CPV) decided not to recognize the official successor of the Czechoslovakian delegation to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC).

1993-1994: North Korean Nuclear Crisis.

May 6, 1994: Korean People’s Army (KPA) Military Armistice Commission (MAC) Secretary delivered a message to UNC stating the KPA had decided to recall all remaining KPA MAC members and staff personnel, would cease participation in MAC activities and would no longer recognize UNCMAC as a counterpart. The KPA also announced its intentions to withdraw the Polish Delegation to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC).

September 1, 1994: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced it had decided to recall the Chinese Peoples Volunteer (CPV) Army delegation to the Military Armistice Commission following the example set earlier in the year by the Korean People’s Army (KPA) when it withdrew its delegation.  The CPV delegation left the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for PRC in September 1984.

July 8, 1994: Kim Jong Il becomes DPRK Head-of-State following Kim Il Sung's death.

April 1998: New Zealand reestablished a small accredited liaison group.

December 1998: Netherlands reestablished a small accredited liaison group.

June 1999: Belgium reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 

October 1999: Norway reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 
 

2000s

March 2000: Greece reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 

April 2000: Denmark reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea.

July 2000: The North-South agreement to create transportation corridors between North and South Koreas was reached in July 2000.  Transportation Corridor-West opened in 2003, followed by Transportation Corridor-East in 2004.

June 2003: Turkey reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 
 
2003-2007: Six-Party Talks (North Korea formally pulled out of the talks in 2009).
 

2010s

March 26, 2010: The South Korean corvette ship, Cheonan, of the 2nd Fleet, ROK Navy  was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack while conducting a normal mission in the vicinity of Baekryong Island.  This attack resulted in the death of 46 out of 104 crew members, and 58 crew member survivors. Following the incident, the ROK Ministry of National Defense organized a civilian-military Joint Investigation Group (JIG) and commenced an investigation on the sinking of the Cheonan.  The JIG consisted of 25 experts from 12 Korean civilian agencies, 22 military experts, 3 advisors recommended by the National Assembly, and 24 foreign experts from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.  

November 23, 2010: North Korea fired artillery at South Korea's Yeongpyeong Island in the West Sea.  The artillery shelling destroyed dozens of homes and killed two South Korean marines, Staff Sergeant Seo, Jeong-wu and Lance Corporal Moon, Gwang-wuk.  Two civilians, Kim, Chi-baek and Bae, Bok-chul were also killed and an additional 16 people were injured.   

November 2010: South Africa reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea. 

December 17, 2011: Kim Jong Un becomes North Korea's Head-of-State following Kim Jong Il's death.

November 2013: Italy reestablished a small accredited liaison group in South Korea.  
 
2015: United Nations Command Commander, General Curtis Scapparrotti, formally announced his vision for United Nations Command Revitalization (i.e. the continued internationalization of United Nations Command staff and separation of functions from CFC and USFK.

2016: North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests; U.S. & South Korea begin ramping up pressure via military shows-of-force and leading international community in imposition of new sanctions.
 
2017: Maximum Pressure Campaign begins in earnest; unprecedented levels of North Korea weapons testing (importantly, no provocations that result in loss of life from either side).

2018: South Korea designates Germany as one of the countries who provided medical aid in the aftermath of the Korean War.

2018: Series of summits contributed to diplomatic rapprochement, including the signing of the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the 2018 Singapore declaration, and the 2018 Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA).

Canadian Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre becomes first-ever non-U.S. Deputy Commander of United Nations Command.

2019: North Korea withdraws from working-level initiatives after breakdown of talks at the Hanoi Summit; United Nations Command continues to support implementation of South Korea's Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) with North Korea through South Korea's Peace Zone Initiatives. 
 

Evolution of UNC

United Nations Command carries on the legacy of the men and women of the twenty-two (22) countries who came to the aid of South Korea during the Korean War and in support of humanitarian efforts following the Armistice Agreement.  The Command’s role evolved from a warfighting command to an international military organization charged with enforcing the Korean Armistice Agreement.  Today, UNC consists of: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, the Republic of South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Republic of Korea, as the host nation.[1] UNC remains a visible reminder of the international community’s enduring commitment to preserving peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Following the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, UNC was responsible for enforcing the Armistice and defending South Korea.  However, UNC’s mission and role evolved over time. On July 1, 1957, United States Forces Korea (USFK) was established with the mission of supporting UNC by providing trained and ready forces for the defense of South Korea.  USFK also provided a myriad of Armistice maintenance functions. On November 8, 1978, the Republic of Korea (ROK) - U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) was established as a bilateral warfighting command. With the establishment of CFC, UNC’s role changed to Armistice maintenance, while CFC became responsible for deterrence and preparations for the defense of South Korea.

UNC experienced a period of growth, relevance, and change, following its decline after the establishment of CFC.  In the early 2000s, Armistice maintenance activities grew with the establishment of Transportation Corridors and South Korean military live fire exercises near the Northwest Islands.  The increase in Armistice maintenance requirements contributed to renewed international interest in UNC, resulting in seven nations rejoining the command between 1998 and 2003.  Recognizing UNC’s “untapped potential”, the UNC Commander announced UNC revitalization as an official command effort in 2015, driving the momentum for more international contributions.  In 2018, Canada assigned the first non-American General Officer to serve in UNC, and Australia continued this trend in 2019 until present.  Shortly after the relocation of UNC Headquarters from Seoul to Pyeongtaek in 2018, UNC revitalization ended.  Despite this transition, the command continues to evolve to meet the dynamic challenges of the security environment on the Korean Peninsula.  These challenges range from demonstrating international resolve and maintaining military readiness during heightened tensions to creating space for inter-Korean diplomacy. 

In fulfillment of the provisions of the Armistice and the Subsequent Agreement of August 17, 1954, UNC has continued to perform its duties related to the return of remains of deceased soldiers. From July 1996 to May 2005, the U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office conducted joint operations with the Korean People’s Army (KPA, official name of the North Korean Army) to recover Korean War remains in North Korea.  Furthermore, the KPA had accepted remains of deceased soldiers, which had been recovered in the DMZ and the territorial waters of South Korea. UNC was willing to accept Korean War remains in Panmunjom, but the KPA suspended such returns in 1999.

Following the thawing of inter-Korean relations in 2018, UNC transitioned its priority from heightened military readiness to creating space for diplomacy.  Subsequently, North Korea and UNC established renewed dialogue and reached an agreement to facilitate the repatriation of Korean War remains. On July 27, 2018—the 65th anniversary of the Armistice signing at Panmunjom—UNC, with support from USFK, repatriated 55 cases of remains from North Korea. A U.S. cargo aircraft flew to Wonsan, North Korea to receive the remains and returned promptly to Osan Air Base, South Korea.  On August 14, 2018, the UNC Honor Guard escorted the remains of a North Korean soldier across the Military Demarcation Line in Panmunjom.  South Korean Naval Forces originally discovered the remains near the Northwest Islands in May 2017. Previous attempts to arrange the repatriation to North Korea failed, and the last time that North Korea returned the remains of fallen service members prior to 2018 was 2007. These exchanges were governed by the Korean Armistice Agreement signed in 1953, enforced by UNC in an effort to build trust among all nations on the Korean Peninsula.

Once the premier warfighting command in Korea, UNC continues to evolve.  Despite its evolution, UNC remains the home of international contributions, and the command remains steadfast in preserving peace in Korea, consistent with the Armistice Agreement and the UN mandates that remain in effect.


[1] Footnote: Denmark, Italy, and Norway were medical contributors who were not signatories of the 1953 Joint Policy Declaration signed in Washington; however, these nations gained UNC membership on 2000, 2013, and 1999 respectively.  This list does not include Ethiopia and Luxembourg who provided combat forces during the Korean War and withdrew from UNC in 1965 and 1953, respectively.  India, Sweden, and Germany also provided medical support during and/or after the Korean War; however, these nations withdrew their support and have not returned.