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Ministry starts search for soldiers’ remains

Mar 28,2006

A recovery team consisting of an army search unit and university researchers started digging yesterday to recover the remains of soldiers believed to be buried in several hills in Seoul’s Guro district. [YONHAP]

South Korea started efforts yesterday to recover the remains of four executed commandos who were trained to assassinate North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung. The four, all members of a secret South Korean military unit nearly four decades ago, were executed by firing squad in 1972 after a revolt and their bodies were not recovered. A team consisting of university researchers and an army search unit started digging to recover the remains, believed to be buried in hills in Seoul’s Guro district, the Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said it has already traced the whereabouts of the remains after gathering testimony from former soldiers who claim to have moved the bodies to the hills during their service in the air force at the time.
“Why are they here? I can’t raise my head because we have to be here now because of the error of the authorities. Those in power should repent,” said Lee Myeong-cheol, secretary general of an association of the bereaved families.
The “684 unit” was better known as the “Silmido unit” after the local blockbuster film “Silmido” that was based on the story of the commandos. The country’s spy agency created it planning to assassinate Kim.
The unit was established on Silmido, a small island off Incheon, in April 1968, three months after 31 North Korean commandos infiltrated South Korea to assassinate then-President Park Chung Hee.
The North Koreans were stopped 300 meters (328 yards) from the Blue House. Twenty-eight were killed, one was captured and two others were believed to have returned to the North.
But the Silmido unit, consisting of 31 commandos, was disbanded in 1971 after they revolted against the government. Most of the secretly trained soldiers blew themselves up during a street battle with South Korean troops, and the four survivors were later executed.
The movie suggested the spy agency decided to get rid of the commandos because they had become redundant as a result of the two Koreas making overtures toward reconciliation. The existence of the military unit was denied by the South Korean government until 2004. No compensation has ever been given to the families of the unit members.
The commandos were recruited with the promise that they would be financially rewarded for taking part in the anti-communist operation.


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