BOGOTA – The outgoing Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Friday that he will go to the United States, the United Nations and North Korea to obtain the return of the remains of 60 Colombian soldiers who died in the Korean War (1950-1953) and were never returned to the country.
During the celebration of Army Day, the last one Santos presided over as head of state, Santos said he entrusted the commander of the military forces, General Alberto Mejia Ferrero, with making the necessary arrangements with the United States and the UN “so that the remains of the Colombians who fell in Korea can be returned to Colombia.”
“There were 60 Colombian soldiers who fell in Korea and never showed up; we are going to begin a process of searching for each and every one of them and we will ask North Korea directly to make that gesture for Colombia,” the president said at an event at the Military Fort of Ptolemais, in the center of the country.
The president recalled that as part of the rapprochement between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States, the Pyongyang regime had recently returned the remains of 55 soldiers killed in the war to the US.
Taking advantage of this situation, Colombia will begin efforts to recover its soldiers as well, so that “their families can give them the burial that these heroes of the country deserve.”
Colombia was the only Latin American country to participate alongside the United States under a UN mandate in the Korean War, to which it contributed an infantry battalion and three frigates.
Of the 5,204 Colombian soldiers who fought in that conflict, 143 were killed, 557 were wounded, 71 disappeared and of the 30 who were captured by enemy troops, two never returned.
According to figures released today by Santos, the bodies of 60 of the 143 people killed in that war were never recovered.
Army Day is celebrated every Aug. 7, but this year’s commemoration was brought forward four days because it coincides with the inauguration of President-elect Ivan Duque.