HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two months ago, North Korea turned over remains of American soldiers
And on Thursday, the U.S. returned remains of South Korean troops killed during the Korean War.
The transfer of 64 sets of remains was done at a repatriation ceremony held in a hangar at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“This ceremony serves as a reminder of the depth of sacrifice of those who wear their nation’s cloth,” U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz said.
Boxes holding the bones were covered with flags of the Republic of Korea and sat in the cargo hold of a South Korean military aircraft.
One box bearing a United Nations flag signified the transfer of the skeletal remains.
Kreitz said forensic scientists from the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency and South Korea identified the remains as South Korean nationals.
They were recovered from North Korea between 1996 and 2005. They had to be separated from remains of American service members.
“It was a difficult task. Our priority was always to identify our guys first. That’s why it took us a little longer to do a forensic review on the potential South Korean remains,” DPAA anthropologist Jennie Jin said.
The forensics lab at Pearl Harbor-Hickam used DNA and military records to make their conclusion that remains are South Korean soldiers.
"They were from two main regions up in North Korea, one in northwest, the other is northeast which we know as the Chosin Reservoir," Jin said.
Choo Suk Suh, South Korea’s vice minister of National Defense, formally received the remains.
He called the dead soldiers heroes.
"After 68 years these heroes are making their long awaited trip back to their families," he said through an interpreter.
Anthropologists in South Korea will now try to identify the remains.
“It is our fondest hope that the Republic of Korea will be successful at giving these heroes their names, and in reuniting them with their families and their country,” Kreitz said.
The remains will be honored at a repatriation ceremony in Seoul on Oct. 1.