South Korean President Moon Jae-in will be the principal speaker Wednesday at the first-ever joint repatriation ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for fallen service members from the Korean War, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said.
The agency, which investigates, searches for and recovers missing American war dead around the world, said 68 Republic of Korea and six U.S. service members will be repatriated back to their home countries. DPAA has a big identification lab, offices and hundreds of staff in Hawaii.
The ceremony will be held with South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense Agency for KIA Recovery and Identification, or MAKRI, which is one of the only other major war dead recovery efforts made at a national level.
Representing the United States will be Adm. John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquartered at Camp H.M. Smith.
Remarks will also be given by Rear Adm. Darius Banaji, deputy director for operations for DPAA “highlighting the U.S.-RoK Alliance and the noble, shared effort to return our fallen,” the U.S. agency said in a release.
“This ceremony, like the past repatriations, is due to the strong and long-standing partnership between the DPAA and MAKRI,” the accounting agency added. “It is the incredible improvements in technology, advancements in forensic science and the strong partnership between DPAA and MAKRI which led to these identifications.”
In June of 2020, DPAA held a repatriation ceremony at Hickam during which the remains of 147 fallen South Korean soldiers, who fought alongside U.S. and United Nations forces during the 1950-53 Korean War, were transferred back to their country.
The efforts were part of the DPAA Korean War Identification Project, and included remains unilaterally turned over by North Korea from 1990 to 1994, and in 2018. It was the largest transfer of remains between the two countries since a 2018 repatriation ceremony when DPAA returned 64 remains to South Korea, the accounting agency said.
Vice-Minister of National Defense Jae Min Park, South Korea’s senior official in attendance, accepted the remains on behalf of the Republic of Korea.
In the 2020 case, the remains were analyzed by scientists and staff from the DPAA Laboratory and MAKRI during a joint forensic review conducted in the days prior to the ceremony, according to the accounting agency.