South Korea placed the remains of 437 Chinese soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War in coffins on Monday before sending them back to their homeland for final burial, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said.
South Korean and Chinese officials have been working together to repatriate the remains of Chinese war dead that have been temporarily buried at a burial ground in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone separating two Koreas.
The first such repatriation comes after South Korean President Park Geun-hye in December offered to return the remains of the fallen soldiers who fought on the side of North Korea in a symbolic gesture of friendship. China immediately accepted the proposal.
“South Korea has buried and maintained the Chinese war remains on humanitarian grounds,” defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. “The South Korean government will repatriate the remains to promote ties between the two nations.”
A coffin ritual was held at the so-called “enemy cemetery” in Paju, with attendance of South Korean military officials and the Chinese delegation.
Once all of the flag-draped bodies are placed in coffins, which is expected to take 10 days, Chinese officials will fly them to China’s northern city of Shenyang on March 28 for reburial.
The original number of Chinese bodies increased to 437 as the excavation team identified 12 additional remains in the process of verification, the ministry said.
The remains had been mainly recovered from front-line areas in Gangwon Province, where fierce battles took place during the three-year conflict.
The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950 when tank-led North Korean troops invaded South Korea. The United States and 20 other allied countries fought on the side of South Korea under the United Nations flag, while China came to the aid of North Korea in the war. (Yonhap)