UNC FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. What is United Nations Command?
United Nations Command (UNC) is a multinational military organization with a United Nations mandate to restore international peace and security in the area. With the establishment of Combined Forces Command in 1978, UNC now exclusively enforces the Armistice Agreement, facilitates dialogue and diplomatic initiatives with North Korea, and preserves UNC member states' ability to fulfill combat forces and capability commitments to the Republic of Korea that have been in place since 1950.
2. Does UNC report to the United Nations?
UN Security Council Resolution 84, paragraph 6, “requests the United States to provide the Security Council with reports as appropriate on the course of action taken under the unified command.” The command reports to the UN Security Council in the form of periodic reports as well as special reporting (such as following North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong-do in 2010). Authorized by the UN Security Council and validated by UN General Assembly resolution, UNC operates under the direction of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff and does not fall under the command and control of UN Headquarters in New York or any of its subordinate organizations.
3. Why is it that UNC personnel do not wear blue berets or helmets, such as in other UN missions?
UN-designated personnel operating in peacekeeping roles wear UN blue berets and helmets. Although UNC is not a UN peacekeeping mission, UNSCR 84, paragraph 5 “authorizes the unified command at its discretion to use the United Nations flag in the course of operations against North Korean forces concurrently with the flags of the various nations participating.”
4. Why does UNC use the United Nations flag?
UN Security Council Resolution 84 authorized United Nations Command to use the United Nations flag in the course of its operations. This is the source of our motto: “Under one flag.”
5. Where do UNC personnel operate?
UNC personnel operate across the DMZ, throughout South Korea, and in Japan. Its personnel are located at six locations: 1. U.S. Army Garrison - Humphreys (Camp Humphreys): UNC Headquarters and UNCMAC-Secretariat. 2. Camp Bonifas: UNC Security Battalion - JSA. 3. Joint Security Area in Panmunjom: UNCMAC Joint Duty Office. 4. Transportation Corridor – West: UNCMAC Corridor Control Team – West. 5. Transportation Corridor – East: UNCMAC Corridor Control Team – East, and 6. Yokota Air Base, Japan: UNC Rear Headquarters.
6. What is an Armistice?
An armistice is an internationally recognized instrument signed between warring parties to cease hostilities. Although it is an agreement that stops fighting between countries, it is not considered a formal peace treaty.
7. Who are the signatories of the Armistice Agreement?
Military commanders from the United States (representing the United Nations Command), the Korean People’s Army, and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army signed the Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, ending roughly three years of fighting on the Korean Peninsula.
8. Why the Armistice Agreement remains relevant today.
The Armistice is a living document, and part of UNC's function is to update the terms and provisions to match the current strategic setting. This is done through negotiations between UNC and the Korean People's Army and in close coordination with the Republic of Korea Government. There have been over twenty negotiated Subsequent Agreements based on formal meetings. The most recent subsequent agreements were signed in November 2000 and September 2002 to open the Transportation Corridors West and East respectively. The Armistice Agreement has ensured the separation of combat forces and prevented the resumption of hostilities since 1953.
9. What happens when there is a violation of the Armistice?
When there is a suspected violation of the Armistice Agreement by any party, the UNC Military Armistice Commission dispatches a team to investigate the incident. Once the investigation is complete, the Military Armistice Commission validates whether the incident indeed constituted a violation. If a violation occurs from actions of personnel under U.S. or South Korean military leadership, UNC informs the units responsible of their violation and ensures that they take measures to prevent recurrence. If the Korean People’s Army committed the violation, UNC initiates contact with the KPA to deliver the findings and to negotiate how to prevent the violation from recurring. Since 1953, UNC has reported findings to the UN Security Council routinely as part of annual reports and in some exceptional cases for immediate deliberation; for example, see UN document S-2010-648, “Special investigation into the Korean People’s Army attack on Yeonpyeong-Do and the Republic of Korea Marine Corps’ response on 23 November 2010.”
10. Does UNC enforce United Nations sanctions?
No, UNC does not enforce sanctions; however, UNC does not ignore potential violations. UNC advises on potential violations and documents and reports violations. “UN Member States are responsible for enforcing UNSCR Sanctions.”
11. Is the DMZ a dangerous place?
Unfortunately, yes, the DMZ remains a very dangerous area due to mines, unexploded ordnance, poor infrastructure and the resident forces of both sides. The areas along and north of the DMZ were the location of heavy fighting between UNC Forces and Communist Forces from Korean People’s Army (KPA) and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army from July 1950 to the signing of the Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953. During the last 60 days of the war, Communist Forces and UNC Forces exchanged a total of over 5 million artillery rounds. An estimated number of up to 2,000,000 unexploded ordnance and land mines remain in the DMZ. Following the signing of the Armistice Agreement, the DMZ remained a dangerous area with skirmishes between opposing sides during routine patrols or in the Joint Security Area (JSA). The most recent skirmish occurred on November 23, 2017 when a KPA defector drove his vehicle to the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and crossed south into the JSA. KPA soldiers fired shots across the MDL into the JSA while trying to prevent the defection. Additionally, in almost every year since 1953 there has been at least one mine-strike in the southern half of the DMZ involving UNC or ROK military personnel. The threat of explosion in areas that have not been fully demined and paved is ever-present. In addition to the manmade threats, there are natural hazards, which present challenges to safe transit within the DMZ.
12. What is the process for accessing the DMZ?
The DMZ is a controlled area for both military and civilian personnel. In order for visitors to better understand the DMZ and the current armistice conditions, the UNC Commander established fourteen sites for DMZ Education & Orientation, plus three Peace Trails (not yet fully-developed). For more information on visiting those sites, please visit Korea's National Tourism site: https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/
13. What is the DMZ Education and Orientation Program?
The DMZ Education and Orientation Program is a UNC Commander directed program meant to provide access to specific areas within the DMZ in order to educate on armistice conditions. The fourteen Education and Orientation Program sites are locations within the DMZ where Koreans, foreign tourists, and distinguished visitors can learn about the Korean War and Armistice Agreement while observing the conditions within the southern half of the DMZ. UNC has validated the safety and security of each of those sites. An additional three “Peace Trails” also provide education and information about the DMZ but are not yet fully developed E&OP sites.
14. Does the UNC conduct remains recovery & repatriation?
Under the Armistice Agreement, UNC and the Korean People’s Army are mutually responsible for military repatriations, including remains of fallen soldiers recovered on either side of the Military Demarcation Line. Currently, UNC supports remains recovery operations in the southern half of the DMZ through access approval, deployment of support teams, and provision of subject matter expertise. In these solemn efforts to find and identify lost service members, UNC partners with the ROK Ministry of National Defense Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification and U.S. Defense Prisoners of War / Missing in Action Accounting Agency; the agencies responsible for conducting these missions.
15. What is the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC)?
The Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) was established in accordance with paragraphs 36 and 37 of the Armistice Agreement and was originally composed of four senior officers from “neutral nations,” (or non-combatants) -- two nominated by the UNC and two by the Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. The NNSC's primary function is to conduct independent compliance inspections and investigations of Armistice Agreement violations and to report its findings to the Military Armistice Commission. Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteer Army nominated Poland and Czechoslovakia; UNC nominated Sweden and Switzerland. In 1993, North Korea expelled Czechoslovakia, after its split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia and later expelled Poland in 1995. However, Poland attempts to continue its membership with the NNSC via their embassy in South Korea. Poland is unable to perform it in North Korea. The Swedish and Swiss delegations of NNSC continue to serve as independent validators of the armistice compliance and enforcement activities.