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SEOUL — U.S. military officials will air a television ad later this month asking South Koreans to help find remains of missing U.S. soldiers who fought in the Korean War.

The ad is part of a military agency’s strategy to recover remains as the Asian nation becomes more developed and the chances of finding them decreases.

“Time is the enemy,” said Johnie Webb, deputy commander for support and external relations for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. He spent three days in Seoul this week meeting with U.S. Forces Korea and South Korean officials.

About 8,100 U.S. servicemembers who fought in the Korean War are classified as missing, and about 1,000 of those are believed to be in South Korea, Webb said. The last time remains of a missing Korean War soldier were found was last year.

Buildings have been torn down and rebuilt in different locations since the war ended, forcing the United States to rely on Koreans who remember the country’s landscape at the end of the war and know where remains might be found.

“It’s a real challenge here, which is why we’re looking to the local population as much as possible,” Webb said. “The individuals that are older and remember what the U.S. soldiers did during the Korean War are supportive and very willing to come forward.”

In one case, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major flew to South Korea to work with a Korean in finding a soldier who is still missing, he said.

Webb said the biggest difficulty in identifying servicemembers is the lack of records, many of which were lost in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

JPAC has DNA samples from about half of the missing servicemembers’ families, and is trying to locate and collect samples from the others.

He said the United States never will recover and identify all of the missing, but it’s important to try.

“It goes to the military tradition of not leaving anyone behind,” he said. “I think it sends a strong message to the men and women in uniform today, that if they lose their life on foreign soil, they won’t be left behind.”

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