Seoul may reconsider KIA soldiersThe Defense Ministry said yesterday it will reconsider whether to keep the current practice of listing former service members who ended up in North Korea during the Korean War as killed in action even after they are confirmed alive in the communist nation.
The move came after four former South Korean soldiers lost long ago in North Korea showed up for meetings with their relatives from the South at the latest round of family reunions that took place at the North’s Mount Kumgang resort over the weekend.
In South Korea, the ex-soldiers have been listed as killed in action during the 1950-53 war because their fate could not be confirmed. There have been similar cases in which former South Korean soldiers, believed to have died during the war, have been confirmed alive in the North.
However, the government has kept their legal status as killed in action so far, considering pension and other government benefits their relatives in the South have been receiving from the government.
Since 2000, 19 former South Korean soldiers who are classified as killed in action have been confirmed alive in the North. Seventeen of them showed up for reunions with their long-lost relatives from the South, and one of them succeeded in fleeing the North to the South.
Since the Korean War, about 41,000 South Korean soldiers have been listed as killed in action.
“As those four who have been listed as killed in action appeared for family reunions, we will review their legal status after consultations with the ministry of patriots and veterans affairs and the Army,” a defense ministry official said.
The four could be among some 500 former South Korean soldiers believed to be alive in the North after being taken as POWs during the conflict. North Korea claims it is holding no POWs and that former South Korean soldiers voluntarily defected.
Pyongyang’s inclusion of the four in the latest family reunions could also be an attempt to reinforce the claim. In addition to the POWs, the North is also believed to be holding more than 400 South Korean civilians, mostly fishermen, taken to the North after the war. But the North also claims they are voluntary defectors.