US lawmaker seeks Korean War prisoners repatriation

WASHINGTON - A senior US lawmaker urged Congress on Wednesday to adopt a resolution calling on North Korea to repatriate thousands of Korean War prisoners still living in the reclusive state.

Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, a Korean War veteran, introduced his resolution to mark the 58th anniversary of the July 27 Korean War Armistice Day.

"As we pay tribute to the nearly two million Americans who answered the call to defend the freedom of Korea, we should not forget about those who never returned," he said in a statement.

"There are still surviving POWs detained in North Korea who for more than 60 years have been unable to return home. I call on North Korea to work with us toward reuniting the thousands of American and Korean families with their missing loved ones."

More than 8,000 US prisoners of war or military personnel missing in action who served in the Korean War are still unaccounted for, according to the US Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office.

And up to 73,000 South Korean prisoners of war were never repatriated, according to estimates.

But the exact number of those still alive in North Korea, along with the number of South Korean prisoners of war detained there, remains unknown as the North has refused to discuss the matter.

Rangel noted that some 100,000 South Korean civilians forcibly abducted by the North Korean Army during the war have also not been acknowledged, accounted for or repatriated by the North.

"The pain of war is felt not only by those who serve but also by those left behind," Rangel added.

"This resolution seeks to provide some closure to the families and friends of the POW/MIAs who have waited too long to learn the whereabouts of their father, husband, or brother."

His resolution also urges the US government to resume search and recovery operations in North Korea that were suspended in 2005. Such efforts uncovered over 220 sets of remains between 1996 and 2005 that are still being processed for identification.

More than 2,000 US soldiers died as prisoners of war during the 1950-1953 war, according to Pentagon figures.