United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC)

International Operation Name: United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission

International Operation Dates:  1953/07/28 - present

Mandating Organization: United Nations

Region Name:  Asia

Location:  Korea

Canadian Operation Name: United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC)

Canadian Operation Dates: 1953/07/01 – present

Mission Mandate: Supervise the Military Armistice Agreement between North and South Korea along the 151 mile long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Mission Notes:

When the Korean War began in 1950, an international force was formed under UN auspices to drive North Korean forces out of South Korea. While the battle lines moved north and south several times in the first year, by mid-1951, they had stabilized along what would be the eventual armistice line. With peace negotiations underway, it appeared that the Korean War would be over near the end of 1951.

In response to the apparent looming end of the war, the United Nations Command (UNC), the organization charged with coordinating the UN effort in the war, suggested the creation of a UNC Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC). Unfortunately, hopes for an armistice were premature and the UMCMAC was not formed.

In April 1953, hopes for an armistice again emerged. UNCMAC was established in July 1953 to supervise the implementation of the armistice agreement, and to provide a mechanism to negotiate alleged violation of the truce. Each military representative was to assist UNCMAC on matters pertaining to their own forces, especially when violations were alleged by forces of their nation.

The Korean Armistice Agreement is unique in that it is purely a military document. A key feature of the armistice is that no nation is a signatory to the agreement. The commander of the United Nations forces signed the Agreement on behalf of the unified command, consisting of the military forces from 16 UN nations and the Republic of Korea. UNCMAC, which is headquartered in Seoul and Panmunjom, is responsible for supervising the Military Armistice Agreement between North and South Korea along the 151 mile long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

When initial plans were made to form UNCMAC, Canada, as one of the 16 nations contributing personnel to the war effort, was asked to contribute an officer at the Colonel or Lieutenant-Colonel rank. In December 1951, this request was approved, and an officer was selected and sent. As this effort to implement UNCMAC was fruitless, UNCMAC was held in abeyance; however, the Canadian officer remained in theatre as a liaison.

With the armistice becoming a greater possibility in early 1953, Canada’s UNCMAC participation was again requested and approved on 27 April 1953. A second Lieutenant-Colonel had been selected and sent to Korea and was in theatre when UNCMAC was stood up in July 1953. He recommended that Canada’s interests could be best served with a Major.

Within six months, it became obvious to him that the work of UNCMAC was at a standstill, and recommended that Canada withdraw. The Department of External Affairs, however, saw value in the reports that were being provided by the Canadian military representative. Canada had no diplomatic representation in South Korea at the time, thus the military officer provided valuable insight that External Affairs could not otherwise gain. The Canadian representation therefore continued.

Canada maintained one Major and one Sergeant with UNCMAC into the 1970s. They participated in guard post inspections, investigations of cease-fire violations and other events and ceremonies including repatriations of war remains from North Korea. In 1978 this responsibility was handed over to the Canadian Forces Attaché in the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. With the transfer of responsibility, UNCMAC ceased to be a Canadian Forces operation.

As it now exists, UNCMAC consists of five members: a senior member (Korean Major-General), a United States member (US Major-General), a Korean member (Korean Brigadier-General), a Commonwealth member (British Brigadier) and a rotating member from the UNCMAC Advisory Group. As a member of UNCMAC Advisory Group, Canada participates on a rotational basis, once every two years for a six-month period. The Canadian Forces Attaché represents Canada on UNCMAC, as part of the Attaché’s normal duties and not a special CF operation.


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