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S. Korea, U.S. begin Korean War remains excavation

All Headlines 14:42 May 06, 2015

SEOUL, May 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States launched a project Wednesday to dig up the remains of their soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The allies kicked off the joint excavation for a three-day schedule in mountainous areas in the southern city of Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, where a division involving soldiers from the two nations launched a fierce battle in August 1950 against the invading North Korean forces, according to the Defense Ministry.

"Upon the tip-off by a ministry official whose parents have lived there, the Seoul government carried out a preliminary research in 2014 before conducting a joint survey in March of this year," said Choi Hee-cheon, the official in charge of the project.

"The survey results led us to believe that remains of the victims will be buried there, as both the allies and North Korea saw a number of casualties during the August battle," he added.

The three-day excavation work involves some 15 South Korean officials and eight experts from the U.S. Defense POW and MIA Accounting Agency. The retrieved remains will go through a process for identification.

"Bodies of some 8,000 U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War out of 54,000 have yet to be found," the chief of the U.S. excavation team was quoted by a ministry spokesman as saying.

"This project will not only accelerate the work to find the remains of the victims and allow the two countries to heed the meaning of the blood alliance," the spokesman said.

The Korean War broke out in June 1950, when North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union, invaded the South. The U.S. and 20 other allied countries fought alongside the South under the United Nations flag, while China helped the North. It ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically in a state of war.

Since 2000, the South Korean military has conducted the excavation based upon records of battle sites and registered soldiers during the three-year conflict, to repatriate the remains to their families. So far, some 9,500 bodies have been recovered, with most of them being identified as South Korean soldiers.

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