SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, South Korea on Friday proclaimed July 27 as "U.N. Forces Participation Day" to honor the veterans who fought alongside South Korea in the three-year war.
Hostilities in the Korean War ended when a cease-fire agreement, not a peace treaty, was signed on July 27, 1953, leaving the two Koreas technically at war. The U.N. Command Military Armistice Commission oversees the implementation of the truce agreement.
As this year's event highlights the importance of international efforts to bring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean government earlier this month passed an act to designate that day as the official day to pay homage to veterans of U.S.-led Allied Forces.
"The U.N. Forces Participation Day will shed light on the significance of U.N. forces that fought in the Korean War and honor their contribution and sacrifice," the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said. "It aims to improve relations with allied U.N. members and help post-war generations learn the nation's history."
As part of the U.N. Allied Forces, 21 countries helped South Korea fight off invading troops from the communist North, with 16 of them sending combat troops and the five others providing medical assistance units. Tens of thousands of U.N. troops were killed in action.
Most countries who joined the U.N. forces were worried about the spread of communism, and they saw the North's invasion of South Korea as a stepping stone for a more pervasive communist threat in the future.
Major contributor nations that lost many lives of servicemen during the war, such as the U.S. and Canada, also designated the day as Korean War Veterans Day to remember their sacrifices. The move comes as the number of survivors of the war is dwindling, with most veterans now in their 80s and 90s.
For this year's event, government officials, representatives of armistice monitoring groups and U.N. organizations from 27 nations were invited to South Korea by the veterans affairs service in appreciation for their contribution and to show them the nation's remarkable development over the decades.
About 220 veterans and their families from 21 nations were also invited to attend commemorative events and visit former battle sites across the nation.
On Friday morning, veterans and government representatives visited the Korean National Cemetery in Seoul to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin met with delegations at his office, including defense chiefs of Norway, the Philippines and Italy.
Later in the day, veterans and foreign delegations will attend an orchestra concert held at South Korea's northernmost Dorasan Station, just south of the Demilitarized Zone.
The symphony orchestra, composed of artists from 21 nations, will play music that wishes for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry said.
On Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama will attend an event marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice in Washington D.C., for the first time as an incumbent president.
In North Korea, the day will be celebrated as Victory Day in what it calls the Fatherland Liberation War to praise its founder Kim Il-sung's achievements during the conflict.
The North has been seen rehearsing a large military parade, mobilizing over 10,000 soldiers and latest military equipment near the capital city Pyongyang.