Re­mains of Chi­nese soldiers re­turn­ing home

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By PU ZHENDONG puzhen­dong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The re­mains of 437 Chi­nese People’s Vol­un­teers who died dur­ing the Korean War (195053) are due to ar­rive home on Fri­day for fi­nal burial.

The repa­tri­a­tion fol­lows three months of ef­forts by South Korea to clean them and reg­is­ter the dead.

A Chi­nese plane car­ry­ing the re­mains is due to leave In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port in South Korea and land at Shenyang Taox­ian In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Liaon­ing prov­ince two hours later.

A cer­e­mony will be held at Shenyang air­port, but the plan for fi­nal burial has not yet been de­cided.

On Thurs­day, the South Korean De­fense Min­istry con­firmed that of­fi­cials will hand over cas­kets con­tain­ing the re­mains to a Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion at In­cheon air­port on Fri­day morn­ing.

Kim Min-seok, spokesman for the min­istry, said Bei­jing and Seoul have co­op­er­ated closely to pre­pare for the repa­tri­a­tion.

“This is a mile­stone in bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and is ex­pected to serve as a good ex­am­ple of pro­mot­ing peace in North­east Asia,” Kim was quoted as say­ing by Yon­hap news agency.

About 20 buses took the cas­kets from a tem­po­rary morgue to In­cheon air­port, the min­istry said.

“This is an im­por­tant sign of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween two com­bat­ants in the Korean War more than 60 years af­ter the ar­mistice,” said Charles Arm­strong, pro­fes­sor of his­tory at Columbia Univer­sity and an ex­pert on Korean Penin­sula af­fairs.

Piao Jianyi, a re­searcher of Korean is­sues at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said the repa­tri­a­tion will bring people of the two coun­tries closer emo­tion­ally.

“The fact that Seoul has in­vested tremen­dous man­power and ma­te­rial re­sources to col­lect and pre­serve the re­mains is cer­tain to move the Chi­nese pub­lic,” Piao said.

“Birth and death are the two most im­por­tant things in Ori­en­tal cul­ture. Both Chi­nese and Kore­ans will agree that dead soldiers should come back to their home­lands, just like fall­ing leaves re­turn­ing to the roots,” he said.

South Korea be­gan ex­hum­ing the re­mains in De­cem­ber when of­fi­cials from the two coun­tries agreed to repa­tri­ate them. More than 14,000 tech­ni­cal per­son­nel took part in the work.

They spent more than three months clean­ing and dry­ing the re­mains nat­u­rally, as well as com­plet­ing the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and reg­is­tra­tion process.

Dur­ing her visit to China in June, South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye of­fered to repa­tri­ate the re­mains to mark the 60th an­niver­sary of the sign­ing of the ar­mistice to end the Korean War. The ges­ture was wel­comed by Bei­jing.

The re­mains were mainly re­cov­ered from front­line ar­eas in South Korea’s north­east­ern prov­ince of Gang­won, the scene of fierce bat­tles dur­ing the war, Yon­hap re­ported.

The South Korean De­fense Min­istry said the re­mains of fallen Chi­nese soldiers will con­tinue to be ex­humed and repa­tri­ated. Chen Weihua con­trib­uted to this story.

AHN YOUNG-JOON / REUTERS

Cas­kets con­tain­ing the re­mains of Chi­nese soldiers who died dur­ing the Korean War are car­ried by South Korean troops in Paju on Thurs­day for repa­tri­a­tion to China.

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