SEOUL, April 22 (UPI) -- South Korea on Monday laid to rest two Korean independence fighters against Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule after their remains were returned to their homeland earlier in the day from Kazakhstan.
The remains of Gye Bong Woo (1880-1956) and Hwang Woon Jeong (1899-1989) arrived Monday from the Central Asian country, along with the remains of their wives, through Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of Seoul.
It is the first time that Kazakhstan has repatriated the remains of Korean freedom fighters, with the Seoul government pushing to bring home other remains of independence fighters, including the legendary Gen. Hong Bum Do, according to the ministry.
The repatriation of the remains also came as South Korea marked the 100th anniversary of the Korean provisional government's establishment in Shanghai.
The remains of Gye and his wife were buried at a national cemetery in Seoul, and Hwang and his spouse were interred at a cemetery in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, in accordance of the wishes of the bereaved family members.
Gye, who was a member of the Korean provisional government based in Shanghai, and his wife were laid to rest with full state honors as 50 people, including Patriots and Veterans Affairs Minister Pi Woo Jin, attended a funeral for them.
"We feel a great respect for the independence fighter who died in a foreign land far away from home after years of fighting for Korean independence," Pi said in a eulogy for the funeral.
Hye devoted himself to writing articles for independence movements and carrying out research on the Korean language and literature. He died in 1959 in the Central Asian country. In 1995, the South Korean government awarded him the Order of Merit for National Foundation.
At the same time, Gye and his spouse were interred at the Seoul cemetery, the remains of Hwang and his spouse were laid to rest at the Daejeon cemetery, with 50 people, including their bereaved families, attending a funeral for them.
The 89-year-old Hwang Ma I, the second son of the independence fighter, said during the funeral, "My father's lifelong wish was to be buried in his homeland," adding he is happy and honored that his father came back to his fatherland.
After participating in independence protests in 1919, Hwang went into exile in China the following year. He then joined a Korean armed force in Russia to fight against Japan. He died in 1989 and was buried in Kazakhstan. He also received a government accolade in 2017.
The ministry has pushed for the project to repatriate the remains of former independence fighters from abroad since 1975. Since then, the remains of 141 independence fighters have arrived on home soil from nine countries.