Moon receives remains of Korean War soldiers

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Moon receives remains of Korean War soldiers

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At Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, on Monday, President Moon Jae-in presides over a solemn ceremony to receive remains of 64 South Korean soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War. They returned home nearly 70 years after the war broke out on the peninsula. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in on Monday presided over a solemn ceremony to receive the remains of 64 South Korean soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Escorted by a fleet of F-15K and FA-50 fighter jets, the remains arrived at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, where Moon and top military and government officials, including newly appointed Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Vincent Brooks, and Korean War veterans awaited their homecoming.

The chiefs of staff for the Army, Navy and Air Force were also among the attendees.

The remains of the 64 soldiers were collected from 1996 to 2005 in a joint excavation operation by North Korea and the United States at the sites of key battles in the North’s South Hamgyong and South Pyongan Provinces. They were then transported to Hawaii.

A joint identification process by the South and United States was conducted from Aug. 22 to Sept. 7. The 64 sets of remains were revealed to be those of South Korean soldiers.

Moon watched the remains, draped in South Korean flags, as they were unloaded from a C-130 aircraft. He paid his respect by saluting.

Moon, who was born to North Korean refugees who settled in the South at the height of the war, also burned incense and offered a silent tribute to the fallen.

“It is a relief that my comrades, with whom I fought 68 years ago, can finally find peace and be embraced by the motherland,” said Jung Il-kwon, a Korean War veteran. “I hope the excavation efforts will proceed not only along the demilitarized zone but also in all parts of North Korea.”

The Monday ceremony was the fourth such ceremony commemorating the return of remains of South Korean soldiers who lost their lives during the three-war conflict. The first ceremony was held in May in 2012 when the remains of 12 soldiers returned home.

This was followed by a second and third ceremony held in April 2016 and July of this year. The remains of 15 soldiers returned home in 2016 while one set of remains made it home this July.

It was the second time that a president attended such a homecoming ceremony.

Former President Lee Myung-bak presided over one in 2012, the last year of his presidency.

The remains returned on Monday will undergo an identification process and receive DNA tests from the Defense Ministry’s Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification.

Their next of kin will then be notified and they will be laid to rest at the national cemetery.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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