70 years after the Korean War, the bodies of veterans were finally found

Seven decades after the end of the Korean War, Seoul began a meticulous job of searching for and identifying the bodies of fallen soldiers and is still missing. Our reporters participated in this unique research program that could be developed at the border between the two Koreans thanks to an agreement reached with Pyongyang two years ago.

Find my hero. “This is the name of the campaign that South Korea has launched to encourage descendants’ families to share their DNA to identify the remains of Korean War veterans (1950-1953).

This conflict, one of the last remnants of the Cold War, may seem remote. But for millions of Koreans, in the north as well as in the south, it is still alive. Because the two Koreans are still technically at war – only one arms deal was signed in 1953 – but also because the remnants of 130,000 soldiers, Koreans and foreigners, were abandoned at the end of the conflict. The families had no news.

Today, things are about to change. Thanks to advances in DNA research and then to an agreement between the two Koreas entered into in 2018, excavations in the border area, DMZ, could begin. Seoul has decided to invest a lot of money and time in identifying these “ghosts of war”. Every year, 100,000 South Korean soldiers are mobilized for the excavations.

>> To see: “DMZ, Korean error line”

War memory

An almost impossible bog: you have to move, dig the soil in huge forests to hope to find the remains of soldiers who disappeared seven decades ago … In laboratories, researchers are trying to cross-reference these remains with DNA from descendants.

A titanium project that is of utmost importance to many South Korean families. When they can finally bury their dead, the feeling is palpable. In South Korea, 40,000 people have already participated in this campaign and conducted genetic research. Hope is good, but the lucky ones are rare. Our reporters have met them.

The international nature of this conflict is not recognized. South Koreans, North Koreans, but also Chinese, Americans and French … in total, about twenty countries participated in the Korean War. Few people know that seven French soldiers are still missing. This devastating conflict caused nearly 3 million deaths and in 1953 resulted in the division of the peninsula into two states. A division that is more relevant than ever.

>> To read: “North Korea returns the remains of American soldiers who died during the Korean War”