N. Korean soldier repatriated at the DMZ
DEMILITARIZED ZONE, Korea — Posturing and bravado are the usual attitudes on display from soldiers facing off across the Military Demarcation Line.
On Wednesday they were briefly replaced by respect and cooperation as the body of a North Korean soldier was returned home during a military ceremony.
Members of the United Nations Command Honor Guard handed a casket with the remains across the line to a group of North Korean soldiers, who then carried it to a waiting vehicle. North Korean officers were even allowed to walk about 20 yards into South Korean territory to inspect the remains before the transfer was made.
The soldier, whose identity was not released, was found floating in the Hantan River on July 20 by South Korean soldiers after he apparently drowned and his body was carried south by the current.
Officials were quick to say the ceremony was, for the most part, routine and not another sign of thawing relations between North and South Korea.
After a summer that found North Korea conducting nuclear and missile tests, as well as repeatedly threatening its enemies, relations appear to be improving of late. In August, North Korea released two American journalists to former President Bill Clinton. And, in recent days, the North agreed to the reunions of families separated since the Korean War.
Officials said remains of North Koreans are found south of the line on an average of once or twice a year. If they are soldiers, their bodies are returned in repatriation ceremonies. If they are civilians, Red Cross officials from the North and South handle the transfer.
In this case, representatives from both sides met last week to discuss where the body was found, what was found on it and how the transfer would be conducted, officials said.