The Unhappiest Ally
After this long and frustrating process, the only individual who remained thoroughly displeased was Syngman Rhee (1875-1965), president of South Korea. Rhee desired nothing less than unification of Korea and wholly voluntary repatriation as absolute conditions for cease-fire. So he threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings by suddenly ordering the release of 25,000 North Korean prisoners who wanted to live in the South. To regain Rhee’s cooperation, the United States promised him a mutual security pact and long-term economic aid. Nevertheless, the armistice signed on July 27, 1953, did not include South Korea. Still, the cease-fire held, and the shooting war was over.
The Korean War did succeed in containing communism—confining it to North Korea—but in all other respects, this costly conflict was inconclusive, except that it provided a precedent for intervention in another Asian war. This time the war would take place in a divided Vietnam, beginning in the next decade.