Editor’s note: Today marks the 70th anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War.
It was on the night of July 26, 1953 when President Dwight Eisenhower announced to the nation the armistice ending the fighting of the Korean War. The armistice took effect on July 27. The horrific three-year conflict, which began when North Korea invaded South Korea, claimed millions of lives, including almost 40,000 U.S. soldiers.
Eisenhower said “For this nation, the cost of repelling aggression has been high. In thousands of homes it has been incalculable. It has been paid in terms of tragedy.”
Korean civilians suffered immensely in the war and would need help long after the guns had gone silent. They still had the enemy of hunger to contend with. Eisenhower recognized this and one of his first actions after the armistice was a gift of 10,000 tons of food to feed the hungry throughout South Korea.
The armistice day gift of food was brought in by American planes, ships and even by rail. The Washington Post reported that Gen. Maxwell Taylor presented the first two food packages to the mayor of Seoul, Kim Tae Sun, in a ceremony.
Food would be critical to the recovery of South Korea after the armistice. In fact, South Korea would benefit from the Food for Peace program started by Eisenhower in 1954. This initiative supported food distributions and agricultural recovery. Millions of children in South Korea received school meals from U.S. Food for Peace in the years to come.
The U.N. World Food Program, which was founded in 1961, had some of its first missions in South Korea. Over many years, South Korea recovered from the war and hunger.
Today, South Korea is a donor of food aid to nations suffering from hunger. South Korea’s story shows the importance of food aid for countries impacted by war.
There are many nations today in conflict that need our help with food aid. Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, D.R. Congo, Haiti, Syria, Burkina Faso and other countries have suffered from conflict and unrest. They cannot rebuild or have stability if they are mired in hunger emergencies.
It’s critical we support global food aid. That is a responsibility the Congress has to ensure — that we continue to meet the challenges of hunger around the world. We must keep pace with the size of the hunger crisis.
A new United Nations report revealed around 735 million people are currently facing hunger, compared to 613 million in 2019. Hunger has escalated because of conflict, and and also climate change. There is severe drought in many countries, which has worsened hunger.
Tragically, funding for hunger relief is low, forcing the World Food Program to reduce food aid in some countries. We cannot let up on global food aid or lives will be lost and so will our efforts to build world peace.
At the end of his speech to the nation on the Korean Armistice, Eisenhower quoted Abraham Lincoln: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
The peace we seek will be founded on charity and food.
William Lambers is the author of “The Road to Peace” and partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” His writings have been published by The New York Times, Newsweek, Cleveland Plain Dealer and many other news outlets.