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S. Korea to repatriate remains of Chinese troops killed in Korean War

S. Korea to repatriate remains of Chinese troops killed in Korean War

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will return 425 sets of remains of Chinese troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War to their homeland, the defense ministry here said Thursday, in a symbolic gesture of friendship toward its former battlefield foe.

Working-level officials of both Seoul and Beijing earlier this month reached an agreement to repatriate their bodies buried at a cemetery in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.



Cemetery of North Korean and Chinese soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War located in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone separating two Koreas. (Yonhap file photo)
The latest move comes after South Korean President Park Geun-hye offered during her China summit talks in June to repatriate the remains of Chinese soldiers as this year marks the 60th anniversary of signing of the armistice.

"The military will repatriate remains and relics of Chinese bodies that have been unearthed so far to their homeland as soon as possible," the ministry said in a release.

The excavation work, which began earlier in the day, will take several months as it usually takes time to wash and dry the remains and place them in a coffin, military officials said.

Currently, 735 sets of North Korean bodies and 367 Chinese bodies are buried in the Paju cemetery of enemy forces, the ministry said.

South Korea will take charge of all preparations from disinterring to placing them in coffins, and the Chinese government will take them to their home, it said.

"The two sides agreed to repatriate the bodies based on the agreed-upon schedule on humanitarian grounds," a senior ministry official said. "The agreement will become a new milestone for relations between the two nations."

   During the Korean War, China fought alongside North Korea against the United States-backed Allied Forces. Historical records show that more than 1 million Chinese soldiers were killed in the three-year conflict.

Since 1981, a total of 403 sets of remains of Chinese troops have been unearthed in South Korea, with 43 of them already repatriated via the United Nations Military Armistice Commission, which supervises the cease-fire.

North Korea had received 42 dead bodies of Chinese soldiers from South Korea in 1981-89 through the truce village of Panmunjom and relayed them to China. But the communist state has refused to take over the Chinese remains after it additionally repatriated one body in 1997.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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