Unclaimed bodies in rivers probably came from North Korea
Four bodies suspected of originating in North Korea have washed up in rivers in Gyeonggi this past month, raising questions about how and why they ended up dead in the South.
The most recent body — of an adult woman — was discovered by a camper in a bush along the Imjin River, downstream from the Gunnam Dam, around 8:25 a.m. on Saturday, according to Yeoncheon Police Precinct.
The source of the Imjin River is north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two Koreas and flows through northern Gyeonggi in South Korea before emptying into the Yellow Sea at Ganghwa Island, north of Incheon.
A police official who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on condition of anonymity said the female corpse had decomposed to the extent that investigators could not give an immediate estimate of the woman’s age.
Police were only able to tentatively conclude that the body originated in North Korea based on the woman’s attire, which featured badges with the portraits of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il.
Police sent the corpse to the National Forensic Service for an autopsy.
Should DNA tests reveal that the woman was from North Korea, it is expected that the Unification Ministry will contact the North to return her body.
On July 2, the body of a child estimated to be between the age of three and seven was discovered on a mud flat off Gyodong Island at the mouth of the Imjin River.
Three days later, the body of a child around the age of eight was discovered in Gimpo along the banks of the Han River estuary, not far from where the Han meets the Imjin as it flows towards the Yellow Sea.
The boy was wearing shorts with no brand and a rubber band around his waist, which would be unusual on a South Korean child.
Another infant body of indeterminate age was discovered in the Imjin River near the Unification Bridge in Paju, northern Gyeonggi on July 16.
Recent torrential downpours in North Korea suggest the bodies may have washed up in South Korea after the North opened the Hwang River Dam, which is located upstream from the Imjin River.
The fact that no reports of missing children were received in northern Gyeonggi has added to police suspicions that the discoveries are children from North Korea.
“If it was the child of a nearby resident or traveler, they would have almost certainly filed a missing person’s report,” said a police officer.
However, police have not ruled out the possibility that some of the bodies could be that of missing South Korean children and are focusing on identifying the bodies and their causes of death.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]