By Lee Chi-dong
HONOLULU, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in received the remains of 68 Korean soldiers, killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, from the United States in a ceremony in Honolulu on Wednesday.
South Korea also handed over five sets of American service members’ remains to the U.S. during the joint repatriation ceremony held at Hickam Air Force Base.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) hosted the event, along with the South Korean defense ministry’s Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification, and Moon “organized” it in person, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
He became the first South Korean president to organize such a remains handover ceremony abroad, it added.
Moon was on a visit to Hawaii following a New York trip for a U.N. General Assembly session.
The remains of two soldiers who have been identified — Pfc. Kim Seok-joo and Pfc. Jung Hwan-jo — was transported on Moon’s presidential jet after a mutual handover signing ceremony. The caskets carrying the remains were drapped in the South Korean national flag.
The caskets containing the remains will be placed on the seats of the aircraft in a show of respect for “the heroes” even while in flight, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
The two were serving at the 32nd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Seventh Division under the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) Soldier Program. They were killed in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950.
Their remains were discovered by North Korea and sent to Hawaii, along with those of American soldiers. The remains were identified in early September.
“What our war heroes wanted to see on the Korean Peninsula was a complete peace,” Moon said at the event and reiterated his call to bring an official end to the Korean War by forging an end of war declaration between the two Koreas and the United States, and possibly China.
The Korean War ended only with an armistice, technically leaving the divided Koreas at war to date.
Moon added, “Sustainable peace is what the world hoped to achieve through the foundation of the U.N. An end of war declaration will give new hope and courage to everyone around the world aspiring for peace beyond the Korean Peninsula.”
He also said Seoul and Washington’s “unwavering endeavor to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula” will never stop.
Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said that the Korean War “brought our two nations side by side to fight for and defend the values embodied in the ideals of freedom,” and also thanked member nations of the U.N. Command for paving the way for the strong network and alliances offering security and freedom in the Indo-Pacific region.
South Korea’s military will carry the other 66 sets of remains, still unidentified, on a KC-330 Cygnus Multi Role Tanker Transport, with Defense Minister Suh Wook aboard.
Among other attendees at the ceremony were Hwang Ki-chul, South Korea’s minister of patriot and veterans affairs; Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commander of United Nations Command; and Hawaii Gov. David Ige.
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