Korean War MIAs must be accounted for

Published 6:08 pm Friday, August 3, 2018

There has been much discussion this summer that the government of North Korea might turn over the remains of U.S. soldiers who died in the Korean War and have never been accounted for. These soldiers fell on what’s now North Korea. Most of them had friends and family members hack home in the United States who deserved to know what happened to them. Those who are listed MIA have been killed, wounded, captured or deserted.

According to a recent article in Time magazine, North Korea claimed in 2014 that it had the remains of some 5,000 Americans and would move them on their own if the U.S, didn’t have an MIA recovery for their soldiers whose remains were in South Korea.

At least two MIAs from the Korean War are from Chambers County. According to a U.S. Defense Department data base that can be accessed by the public, those two soldiers are Pvt. Wesley Johnson, who was born in 1933 and who has been missing since 1950, and Pvt. Billy E. Smith, who was born in 1929 and who has been missing since 1950. The war began in 1950 and ended in 1953.

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The war has been over for 65 years now. It’s high time for there to be a thorough and complete accounting for what happened to the soldiers on both sides. If we can’t reach some kind of agreement on this, realistically there’s no chance of getting a deal on denuclearization.

There’s been much talk of repatriation since the much-publicized summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. It’s our hope this will be something more than talk and photo ops. We hope to see meaningful results. Veterans groups in the U.S. have called for this to take place, and we support them on this.

According to recent reports, North Korea has pledged to return the remains of up to 55 Americans. That would be a start, but much more needs to be done. According to the U.S. Defense Department, there’s a total of 7,669 Americans who served in Korea and who are unaccounted for.

The first bridge to cross to having better relations between the U.S. and North Korea is to have an accounting for this. There’s been much volunteer help to break the impasse. Close relatives of the American MIAs have submitted DNA as a means of identifying those who may have died in the North. There’s now a database for as much as 90 percent of those who went missing. It might be necessary for U.S. search teams to go to North Korea to look for the remains of U.S. soldiers.

If the North Koreans are sincere in repatriation we should get some cooperation from them, but if they are playing us for fools that MIA list won’t be dropping down very much.

Here’s hoping something major can get done with this. If not, there’s little hope of denuclearization anywhere on the horizon.