US, South Korea Hold 1st Joint Repatriation Ceremony in Hawaii

US, South Korea Hold 1st Joint Repatriation Ceremony in Hawaii US, South Korea Hold 1st Joint Repatriation Ceremony in Hawaii (South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

By Theodore Bunker | Thursday, 23 September 2021 11:06 AM

The United States and South Korea held a joint repatriation ceremony this week at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, making it the first joint repatriation ceremony to take place between the two countries.

The ceremony, which was held by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), and South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense Agency for Killed In Action Recovery and Identification (MAKRI). The ceremony saw the two countries exchange three transfer cases containing the remains of soldiers, one from the U.S. and two from South Korea, who died in the Korean War.

The case carrying the remains of a U.S. soldier represents six sets of remains that were being repatriated but have not yet been identified. The two cases received by MAKRI represent 68 sets of remains being repatriated to South Korea. A family member of one of those soldiers attended the ceremony.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the principle speaker at the event, accepted the remains on his country’s behalf.

"American and Korean war heroes are finally returning home to their families after a 70 year long wait," Moon said. "It is an absolute privilege to be the first Korean president to host the return of the fallen heroes."

U.S. Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the senior U.S. official at the ceremony, added that "Today we pay tribute to all Korean War veterans, and their families, for their service and sacrifice as they fought in battle to protect and defend our common values and the region. May the enduring alliance and deep friendship between the Republic of Korea and the United States continue for generations."

Rear Adm. Darius Banaji, the DPAA Deputy Director for Operations, said in a statement: "Today’s joint repatriation ceremony is a testament to the strength of our two country’s partnership and the sustained cooperation and collaboration between MAKRI and DPAA."

He noted that "MAKRI’s recovery operations over the years in the Demilitarized Zone and on the Korean Peninsula resulted in discovering remains of more than a dozen U.S. servicemen. Years of Joint Forensic Reviews between DPAA and MAKRI determined over two hundred sets of remains that were unilaterally turned over to the U.S. by North Korea were Republic of Korea servicemen."