South Korea struggles to find, identify remains of thousands of war dead
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 20, 2016
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s military is racing against time to find the remains of more than 124,000 servicemembers still missing decades after the Korean War left the peninsula divided by the world’s most militarized border.
Some 9,100 sets of remains have been unearthed since the recovery project started in 2000, but only 116 have been identified, according to the Ministry of National Defense’s Killed in Action Recovery and Identification unit, known as MAKRI.
The effort had a late start. South Koreans faced severe economic hardships after the war against the North ended. The capital, Seoul, and many other cities were virtually destroyed so the government’s priority was survival and reconstruction, not finding fallen heroes.
“The government and the people were focused on economic development and getting out of poverty,” said Col. Lee Hak-ki, MAKRI’s commander. “Therefore there was a lack of interest in excavating the remains of war dead at that time.”