In 2017, the main threat that North Korea poses to South Korea (aside from the nuclear weapons) is that Seoul is within range of North Korean artillery. For instance (from an article in The Atlantic):

One high-ranking U.S. military officer who commanded forces in the Korean theater, now retired, told me he’d heard estimates that if a grid were laid across Seoul dividing it into three-square-foot blocks, these guns could, within hours, “pepper every single one.”

I believe that long-range artillery predates the Korean War. This makes me wonder, why did South Korea (and the international military forces) consider this an acceptable situation? Why would they leave the capital city exposed like that? (Was the military cost of gaining further territory too high?)

  • 2
    It's not that they chose to have the capital exposed. The last years of the war were a stalemate. In other words, neither side managed to gain significant territories (and not for lack of trying).
    – user69715
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 4:50
  • 4
    Note that the threat is highly exaggerated even today. Few of North Korea's artillery actually have the range to cover all but the closest suburbs of Seoul, and they would be knocked out by counter artillery fire very quickly.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 8:41
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    I love how a Q&A site quotes a newspaper which paraphrases an unnamed officer reporting what he had "heard" (presumably years ago). Bonus points for using the word "estimates".
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 10:23
  • @kubanczyk You would rather have an unsourced assertion? Oh wait, this is an unsourced assertion.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 14:44
  • Today stationary artillery on a modern battle field is not particularly effective. You use it. You lose it.
    – user27618
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 22:12

1 Answer 1


First of all, armistice was supposed to be a temporary measure on the way to an actual peace treaty, it was not expected to last as long as it did. But at the moment of its proposal it was not accepted by South Korea - or by North Korea, for that matter. In fact, USA officials first started talking about peaceful resolution in December 1950, after China's intervention made it clear war isn't ending anytime soon, but until hostilities reached an obvious stalemate in June 1951 both Koreas wanted to fight until all of the country was united. US and USSR pressed for armistice, and in 1953 the demarcation line was drawn where the forces happened to stand at the moment - both sides just withdrew their forces 2km back from the frontline.

At that time, North Korea actually didn't have any artillery capable of hitting Seoul from that distance - so this possibility didn't enter armistice designers' minds, after all, if a peace treaty is to be accepted, it would include an agreement on borderlines which would probably go along the 38th parallel, taking the city out of the danger zone. But no such agreement was reached, and the temporary demarcation line became a de-facto permanent border.

  • 4
    Right. Its an important point that there never was an actual treaty, and both countries are technically still at war with each other.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 15:19

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