Remains of Chinese soldiers returned

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Remains of Chinese soldiers returned


Chinese soldiers carry wooden coffins to load onto a chartered plane issued by the Chinese government yesterday at Incheon International Airport. [Joint Press Corps]

South Korea yesterday returned the remains of 437 Chinese soldiers who fought on the side of the Communist North during the 1950-53 Korean War, a move hailed by Beijing as a step toward improving diplomatic ties between the two nations.

At a transfer ceremony held at Incheon International Airport, a group of South Korean soldiers handed over the remains of the war dead, housed in wooden coffins that had been transported via bus from a temporary morgue in Paju, Gyeonggi. Amid a solemn performance by a military brass band, the coffins were presented to Chinese soldiers who had flown into Seoul on a chartered plane issued by the Chinese government.

About 80 officials from both countries attended the event. Nine coffins were placed on a table, where Chinese Ambassador Qiu Guohong draped a red national flag over each. The remaining coffins were stored in the Chinese government’s plane a day earlier. The repatriation came after South Korean President Park Geun-hye promised during a summit last June with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that the remains of the fallen would be delivered directly to China.

Although President Park vowed at the time to return the remains of 425 soldiers, authorities found an additional 12 bodies during the excavation process. “We appreciate the support from officials from both countries for the successful transfer [of the remains] based on the close cooperation between South Korea and China,” South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo said in a speech yesterday at the ceremony. “The repatriation of the remains of the Chinese soldiers will heal the traumatic memories of the past and serve as a milestone that leads us to the river of co-prosperity.”

Zou Ming, an official from the Chinese Civil Affairs Ministry, responded: “We appreciate South Korea’s sincere hospitality and its cooperation with us for a successful repatriation. This return was realized because both countries share the same vision of developing diplomatic ties.”

According to the Ministry of Defense, the South Korean military plans to return any additional remains found following this repatriation, using the same processes. The returned remains will be laid to rest in a state cemetery in Shenyang, China, where the 123 Chinese war dead - considered the nation’s greatest heroes - are buried.

After the war, the remains of 43 fallen Chinese soldiers were returned to China via North Korea, through the border village of Panmunjom, but after 1997 Pyongyang refused to cooperate in repatriation procedures. Unreturned remains rest in an enemy cemetery in Paju.


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