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Soldier's remains returned to North Korea during repatriation ceremony

The United Nations Command Honor Guard unloads a casket containing the remains of a North Korean solider from a hearse during a repatriation ceremony on Oct. 18, 2012, in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone.

DEMILITARIZED ZONE, Korea — Military officials from both sides of the Demilitarized Zone put their differences on hold for 10 minutes Thursday for the ceremonial return of a North Korean soldier whose body was found south of the line dividing the two Koreas.

The repatriation ceremony featured the unusual sight of three North Korean officers being escorted briefly onto the southern side of the Military Demarcation Line to inspect the soldier’s remains before his casket was handed back over the line by members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard.

North Korean soldiers then loaded the casket into a waiting ambulance.

U.N. Command officials have been trying for more than a month to coordinate the return of the remains of the North Korean private, believed to be in his late teens or early 20s. His body was pulled Aug. 23 from the flood gates of the Hantan River, less than two miles south of the border.

Officials believe he drowned and the current carried his body into South Korea.

A U.N. Command spokesman said remains of North Koreans are found south of the border once or twice a year. If they are soldiers, their bodies are returned in repatriation ceremonies. If they are civilians, Red Cross officials from both Koreas handle the transfer.

Activities on the north side of the Joint Security Area before, during and immediately after Thursday’s ceremony appeared to be the same as usual, despite the defections earlier this month of two North Korean soldiers across the DMZ.

rabiroffj@pstripes.osd.mil

 

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