June 6 (UPI) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said his administration will prioritize the recovery of soldier remains buried in the demilitarized zone.
Moon, who may meet with President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore next week to facilitate the U.S.-North Korea summit, raised the issue of the project, suspended after inter-Korea relations declined in 2008, Seoul Shinmun reported Wednesday.
“We will continue efforts to recover the remains of military and police members who fell during the Korean War until we find the last remaining person,” Moon said as he marked the 63rd South Korean Memorial Day at the National Cemetery in Daejeon.
“When the South-North relations improve, we will push for the recovery of the remains in the demilitarized zone first of all. We will also be able to retrieve the remains of U.S. and other foreign soldiers who participated in the war,” the South Korean leader said, according to Yonhap.
Moon Sung-mook of the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy’s unification strategy center said more negotiations with North Korea are needed if South Korea wants to resume the project.
According to data from Seoul’s Institute for Military History, 137,800 South Korean troops were killed and another 25,000 went missing during the 1950-53 Korean War.
About 37,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in action and an estimated 8,100 U.S. troops are missing in action.
Thousands of bodies are believed to buried in the DMZ, where landmines make it dangerous to cross the border.
Quoting military estimates, South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported there are more than 10,000 South Korean soldiers’ remains in the DMZ. More than 2,000 soldiers under the United Nations Command were killed in the area.
In a separate agreement with the United States, North Korea returned the remains of 443 Americans, from 1990 to 2007.
Roughly half of those remains were jointly recovered.