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[Opinion] U.S. Searches for Remains in Han River

Posted May. 22, 2008 09:05,   


The Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command is under the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. Launched at Hickam Air Force Base in October 2003, the command seeks to find all American soldiers missing or dead during the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. Some 400 command members are working under 18 teams. They go everywhere to find the bodies of missing U.S. troops. The command’s mottos are “You are not forgotten” and “Until they are home.”

A U.S. excavation team went to North Korea before the command was launched. A good example is the work they did in Unsan, North Pyongan Province, and Lake Jangjin in Gaema Heights, South Hamgyong Province, the site of a fierce battle with Chinese troops before the retreat in January 1951. The project was jointly conducted by U.S. and North Korean forces. A North Korean soldier in a Nike cap and a blue jean was witnessed. By the end of the project in May 2005, the U.S. military had found some 220 bodies. In return, North Korea received two million U.S. dollars. This was part of behind-the-scenes deals between the two countries when they were officially negotiating Pyongyang’s nuclear dismantlement.

Members of the command have appeared near Dangsan Bridge over the Han River in Seoul. Yesterday, underwater explorers on a rubber boat repeatedly dived eight meters down. They searched the river bottom for the body of a F-7F pilot who crashed into the river in September 1950, when the Incheon invasion was conducted and Seoul was retaken by Allied forces. It is questionable whether the body even exists, but the searchers appear serious. They will continue their exploration with sonar and metal detectors and GPS until May 30.

Since the Korean War, several big floods and comprehensive development plans in 1982-86 have greatly changed the Han River. Finding the body will be a long shot. Still, Washington is fully committed to finding the bodies of those who sacrificed their lives for their country and bury them in national cemeteries. This is the power of America that can ask soldiers for commitment and patriotism to safeguard peace and freedom.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)