|President Moon Jae-in puts war medals on the remains of 64 South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, after they arrived at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Oct. 1, 2018, from Hawaii. The remains were found during a joint excavation project between United States and North Korea and later identified to be South Koreans through joint work by the U.S. and South Korea. Korea Times file|
By Jung Da-min
The remains of 80 or more South Korean soldiers who died in the Korean War will be returned to the country around April this year from the U.S.' Hawaii after they had been moved there from North Korea by the U.S. government, according to media reports citing government officials, Sunday.
The reports said the remains, identified as those of South Korean soldiers, were among those returned from North Korea to the U.S. as a follow-up to the Singapore agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018, and would be included in the 80 sets that will be delivered by the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
The return of the war remains of South Korean soldiers is reportedly one of the projects pushed by the government this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of 1950-53 Korean War. It is the highest number of any such returns since October 2018, when South Korea received 64 sets from the U.S.
The two governments worked together in 2011, 2015, 2018 and 2019 to identify the remains of South Korean soldiers among those the U.S. had in their custody. The U.S. delivered 12 sets of remains to the South in 2012, 15 sets in 2016 and 65 sets in 2018 including the October delivery of 64 sets.
But the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said the number of sets of war remains to be returned and specific dates for the return have yet to be decided on. The Republic of Korea Air Force has also remained cautious over the reports that it will send a special transport plane to Hawaii for the return plan, saying this has yet to be decided according to negotiations between the two governments. In October 2018, the ROK Air Force sent a plane to Hawaii to repatriate the remains of South Korean soldiers.
Once the remains arrive in the country, the MND Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification will conduct the identification procedures of comparing DNA samples from the remains with those of the bereaved family members. The identified remains will be delivered to the bereaved family members to be buried in the National Cemetery. While the identification procedures for the 64 sets which arrived October 2018 are still ongoing, the defense ministry is planning to mount a publicity campaign for DNA sampling of those who lost family members during the Korean War.