Remains of two U.S. soldiers and 15 South Koreans were returned to Seoul during a ceremony on Thursday. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forces Korea
SEOUL, April 28 (UPI) -- The remains of two Americans who died in combat during the Korean War were returned along with the bones of 15 South Koreans on Thursday.
The soldiers were killed more than 60 years ago during the 1950-53 conflict, according to the Stars and Stripes.
U.S. teams excavated some of the remains as part of a now expired agreement with Pyongyang.
South Korean search teams found the two American remains in 2015 in the North Korean county of Yanggu, Kangwon Province, in Paeksok-san Mountain, local newspaper Kukmin Ilbo reported.
The location was the scene of a battle with the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in the summer and fall of 1951.
"Because of their sacrifice, [South Korea] is a thriving democracy and a prosperous economy," said Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the outgoing U.S. Forces Korea commander. "As we stand in their shadow, we hope that their return brings a sense of peace and closure to their families."
Of the 54,000 U.S. troops who fought in the Korean War, about 7,800 are still missing.
The United States was allowed to send a team to North Korea between 2000-04 with the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The Americans were allowed into areas, including the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir where intense fighting occurred.
The team collected remains that were later identified as South Korean by forensic investigators in Hawaii.
The repatriation of the remains was allowed under a signed memorandum of agreement from last November, according to retired U.S. Army Gen. Michael Linnington, DPAA director.
Some 40,000 South Koreans are buried in North Korea, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.