SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah veteran who served two stints in Korea for the Air Force is cautiously optimistic about the news of a potential, official end to the Korean War.
State Jr. Vice Commander Darryl Root of the Veterans of Foreign Wars experienced, first hand, some of the horrors of North Korea in the 1980s.
“There was some crazy stuff going on,” Root said. “We’d find people in tunnels, coming out of a tunnel.”
Those people were attempting to escape the brutal ruling regime of North Korea.
In the decades since he left the Korean peninsula, Root thinks the conditions have only deteriorated.
“It has declined with his son [Kim Jong Un] taking over,” Root said.
Thousands of American troops—many of them from Utah—died in the Korean War.
An armistice was signed in 1953 that brought an end to the fighting, but no formal peace treaty was ever signed, meaning the war isn’t officially over.
Root is hoping for stability in the region, but he knows that prospect is still a long shot.
“From what I saw when I was there and what I’ve seen on the news, I’m just a little cautious,” Root said. “I’m not going to celebrate until the ink's dry.”
Shawna Kim Lowey-Ball, a professor of Asian history at the University of Utah, agrees there is reason to be cautious.
“I think we have to wait and see if we are going toward full denuclearization in a serious way,” Lowey-Ball said.
While Friday's news is the first step toward peace, she believes it won’t mean much until nuclear weapons are eliminated from the region.
“As long as anybody in the region is worried about a ballistic missile being able to reach them, I’m not sure signing a piece of paper is the whole thing,” she said.
As the two sides continue to talk, Root is hoping for a peace deal to help those who served and the families of soldiers who lost their lives in combat find peace and comfort.
“Because they never really had an ending, I feel bad for the Korean vets,” Root said