First Remains of South Korean Soldiers Returned Home from North

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 1:40 am (UTC-5)
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The remains of 12 South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the Korean War have been returned home, in the first such repatriation since the fighting ended nearly 60 years ago.

The flag-draped boxes containing the remains arrived Friday at a military airport south of Seoul, where South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and other top officials gathered for an honor guard ceremony.

The remains were among 226 sets found in North Korea by a U.S. excavation team before Washington halted the recovery mission in 2005 because of safety concerns.

Two of the remains have been identified using DNA, while efforts continue to identify the other 10.

Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesperson Kim Hyung-suk said he looks forward to further repatriation of South Korean soldiers' remains if the conditions permit.

“If the South-North relationship normalizes and if the North shows more active change in its attitude, including on humanitarian matters, we can always discuss this kind of repatriation with the North.”

Seoul estimates that about 140,000 South Korean troops were killed in the three-year civil conflict, which ceased in 1953 with an armistice. It says 30,000 to 40,000 troops remain buried in the North.