It was the concession from Kim Jong Un that was somewhat of a surprise to Americans not connected with the military. Hundreds of sets of remains left behind in what is today North Korea were part of the negotiations. North Korea is reportedly ready to hand them over to American authorities very soon.
Planning is underway to receive the remains from North Korea in the coming days, although the actual transfer date and location have not been finalized, the officials say. They add that the administration is ready to receive the remains as early as this week if the North Koreans decide to move quickly.
Receiving these remains and bringing them home would give closure to hundreds of families whose loved ones are listed as missing in action. In addition, this is a big step in closing the chapter in history that is the Korean War.
The Defense Department estimates there are up to 5,300 sets of US servicemember remains still somewhere in North Korea. A total of 7,697 personnel remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Some are pilots who were shot down, some are ground troops, others may be those who died in prisoner of war camps.
North Koreans are telling the US that one forensic reason they believe the remains are those of Americans is that the bones resemble those of westerners more than Asians, an official said. The official added that the remains of other nationalities killed during the war could be included in returned remains.
While this is not the complete number of remains left behind in North Korea, it is a start. At this time, the plan is to hand the remains over to United Nations officials at the DMZ that separates north and south on the Korean peninsula. From there, the remains will be sent to a lab in Hawaii for identification. The country of origin of the dead will be determined if possible as there are many missing from other western nations. At this time, it is not known what personal effects (dog tags, etc.) will be returned with the dead.