[FOUNTAIN]Bringing the bodies homeThe United States has shown a strong interest in collecting the bodies of its war dead. Right after the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, for example, U.S. President George Bush called Soviet Union President Boris Yeltsin. At the time, the biggest issue was Russia succeeding the Soviet Union as a member of the United Nation Security Council, which President Bush agreed to without any reluctance. Then, suddenly, President Bush made his first request of the land newborn as Russia to search for U.S. soldiers’ bodies. Some of the requests included the pilot of a B-29 bomber, which crashed in Soviet territory after being shot down near the Duman River of North Korea during the Korean War in 1952 and the bodies of flight attendants from a flight which crashed in the Republic of Armenia in 1958. President Yeltsin promised to cooperate and the U.S. officials went into Russia the next year and exhumed 18 bodies.
To collect the bodies, the U.S. has even cooperated with North Korea, which it has called part of an “axis of evil.” The United States has been collecting soldiers’ bodies in North Korea since July 1996. Pyongbuk Wonsan and Hamnam Jangjin Reservoir was a hard-fought field during the Korean War, where hundreds of U.S. soldiers lost their lives. Tens of U.S. officials went into the region to collect the bodies with the North Korean army’s help. While the U.S. government was red in the face about the nuclear issue and discussed setting up economic blockades to North Korea, it gave millions of dollars in remuneration. This shows how seriously the Americans think of collecting their soldiers’ bodies.
A body found in the mountains of California last October turned out to be a flight trainee in the U.S. Army who lost his life in a 1963 plane crash. The reports said the body was buried in his hometown last week. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command located in Hawaii exhumes and identifies bodies of the U.S. soldiers. The team was organized in 2003, combining the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory with 30 years of experience and a task force which has exhumed war dead for 10 years. Their motto is “Until they are home.” In a recent speech, President George W. Bush said, “The government will not rest at ease until they are home.”
The Korean Army announced it will launch a national defense team to speed up exhuming the bodies of the soldiers who died during the Korean War next January. Hopes are high. Despite how faint our war memories are, it is our duty not to forget about those who gave their lives for our country.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.