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S. Korea sends 437 Chinese war dead to homeland

2014/03/28 15:05

YEONGJONG ISLAND, South Korea, March 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea flew the remains of 437 Chinese soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War to China in a solemn ceremony on Friday for final burial in their homeland.

South Korean soldiers handed over the coffins to Chinese soldiers at Incheon International Airport after the two nations' officials signed a document.

The coffins, draped in red Chinese flags, will be sent to the southeastern city of Shenyang for a reburial in a state cemetery for war dead.

Chinese soldiers carry flag-draped coffins containing remains of Chinese war dead who were killed in the 1950-53 Korean War during a repatriation ceremony held at the Incheon International Airport on Marh 28, 2014. (Yonhap)

Chinese soldiers carry flag-draped coffins containing remains of Chinese war dead who were killed in the 1950-53 Korean War during a repatriation ceremony held at the Incheon International Airport on Marh 28, 2014. (Yonhap)

South Korean officials exhumed the remains of Chinese war dead temporarily stored at a burial ground in Paju, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, and placed them in coffins for repatriation.

Most remains had been recovered from front-line areas in Gangwon Province, where fierce battles took place during the three-year conflict.

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, which was welcomed by Beijing.

"The ceremony was held 270 days after the two nations agreed to send the remains of the Chinese war dead," said Baek Seung-joo, vice defense minister. "Repatriation of the Chinese remains will heal historical trauma between the two nations and serve as a new milestone for mutual prosperity."

   Chinese officials thanked Seoul for its cooperation and vowed to work with South Korean officials to establish a bilateral repatriation system

"The repatriation took place as the two nations agreed to work together to improve relations," Zou Ming, a senior official from the Chinese Civil Affairs Ministry, said. "We have agreed to establish a system based on this process to prepare repatriation of Chinese war dead in the future."

   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. The conflict ended in a cease-fire three years later.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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