Nearly 8,000 American soldiers are currently in North Korea waiting to come home. However, U.S. and North Korean political relations are delaying their long awaited homecoming. These soldiers are not on active duty, nor are they being held hostage—unfortunately, these soldiers died on the field of battle during the Korean War, but their remains have never been found or recovered. Categorized as missing in action their families have no remains to bury and no closure as a result of their relative’s sacrifice in “The Forgotten War.”
These soldiers, whose bodies are entombed in the icy mud of 60 year old battlefields or under unmarked prisoner of war headstones, will remain in North Korea after the Pentagon announced that they would suspend recovery efforts in the isolated country. North Korea’s recent announcement that they would launch a satellite with a long range missile into orbit has caused concern amongst military leaders in the Pentagon resulting in the postponement of joint US/North Korean recovery efforts.
“We have suspended that effort because we believe that North Korea has not acted appropriately in recent days and weeks and that it’s important for them to return to the standards of behavior that the international community has called for,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little. In addition, the State Department has already announced that they would halt a new food-aid deal with the communist country.
Despite North Korea’s announced intentions, it seems highly unlikely that the country has the capability to launch a craft capable of escaping earth’s atmosphere. In 2006, for example, North Korea’s Paektusan rocket notoriously fizzled in a 2006 test over the Korean peninsula. Additionally, their Taepodong-1 missile, their longest range missile system, failed to deliver a North Korean satellite into Earth orbit during a 1998 launch. In light of North Korea’s failures, should the Pentagon play politics when it comes to the remains of fallen American soldiers? Shouldn’t the saying “no man left behind” rise above the noise of international politics?
Hunt Called Off for Thousands of U.S. Soldiers in North Korea
I believe that it is of the upmost importance to bring home the soldiers’ bodies. “No man left behind” is something that our country is prided on. Knowing that if you go off to war to fight for our country and you perish the country in return will do what it takes to make sure your body comes home, to make sure your family can be somewhat at peace. I understand , however, that tensions have been mounting in North Korea. Just because the efforts to recover the bodies have been postponed does not mean that the efforts will not be taken up again once things cool down.
Although returning some of the remains to families would be the humane thing to do, the power of politics will continue to trump those sentiments. The North Korean political game illustrates the general lack of regard for soldiers many nations, not only the U.S., display. In unfortunate instances, soldiers have become statistics and catalysts of pro-war propaganda, but the basic humanity and individuality of the soldiers is overshadowed by political agendas. It often seems that soldiers are only as human as the political agendas require. In the context of the Brian’s post, the focus is clearly on placing political pressure on North Korea, and the efforts to return remains of soldiers for burials and closure for their families has taken the back seat. It is possible that this will be an effective step, to some degree, in pressuring North Korea to behave according to international expectations. However, the history of politics and unnecessary wars of the U.S. moves me to believe that some concessions for the simple individuality and humanity of the soldiers that have fallen are necessary.