An Army officer hands over the remains of Jung Cheol-ho to his family members in Ulsan on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
After 60 years, a South Korean soldier who was killed during the Korean War was repatriated to his relative Thursday for reburial, a military excavation team said.
The Ministry of National Defense’s Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification in May found remains of Jung Cheol-ho near a former battle site in Cherwon, just south of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.
The Army staff sergeant who belonged to the 8th Infantry Division fought in the battle in early July 1953, only 10 days before the three-year conflict ended in an Armistice Agreement, the MAKRI said.
His remains were found along with his helmet, shovel and other personal belongings. Among them, a wooden stamp inscribed with his name provided a clue to his identity and his DNA matched those of his relatives, it said.
Jung, the fourth child of six siblings, is survived by his two sisters and cousin.
“When he took a military leave in June 1952, he planted sweet potatoes and told his young cousin to eat them in autumn. It is my last memory of him. I’m glad that his remains were discovered after so long a time,” his younger sister Jung Kyung-bun, 68, said. “When my mother received the notice of his death, she was in deep grief.
Until she died at the age of 81 in 1979, she was looking for him.”
Army officials handed over Jung’s remains to his 55-year-old cousin, who lives in the southeastern city of Ulsan, in a ceremony.
His remains will be buried in the national cemetery later this year, officials said.
Starting in 2000, the Army began to mobilize soldiers on a three-year-old mission to find war remains. With widespread public support, the government established an official team in 2007 of special forces with expertise in history, forensic science and archeology.
MAKRI has been conducting operations nationwide to find the remains of the 130,000 soldiers still unaccounted for out of the 160,000 who are classified as missing or killed during the Korean War. About 8,300 bodies have been recovered since 2000, but only 83 of them were able to be returned to their families. (Yonhap News)