THERE ARE AN estimated 5,300 bodies of American soldiers in North Korea – and now Pyongyang wants Washington to come get them.
The North Korean government announced today that it will start moving the bodies, left there from the Korean War of 1950-1953, “en masse”.
The announcement is seen as an attempt to pressure the US into coming to collect their dead. A resumption of the US effort to account for all of their dead and missing would mean much-needed cash for the impoverished North.
The United States suspended efforts to recover the remains of thousands of U.S. soldiers who died during the Korean War because of the North’s plans to launch a long-range rocket in 2012.
The US at the time was just starting the process of resuming excavation work that had been suspended in 2005 when Washington said security arrangements for its personnel working in the North were insufficient.
North Korean would have received millions for supporting the work.
Around 8,000 Americans are listed as missing from the war, 5,300 of those in the North.
An unidentified North Korean military official said in a dispatch that the remains are “left here and there uncared and carried away en masse” because of building projects, land reorganisation and flood damage.
Analyst Chang Yong Seok at Seoul National University told the Associated Press that the North’s statement appears aimed at applying pressure to US politicians and officials ahead of November elections to resume the recovery project, which could give the North a way to get foreign currency and improved ties with Washington.
The North has been seeking closer ties with the US administration to try to secure investment in their economy. Despite being five times bigger than Ireland, its GDP is less than a quarter.
With reporting from the Associated Press