February 25, 2008 – Thousands of American families have a tragic hole in their lives that may finally be filled with answers. While the Korean War ended a half century ago, more than 8,000 American families still don’t know what happened to their loved ones.
There are 8,100 Americans still listed as missing in action from the Korean War, often called America’s “forgotten war.”
Later this week, the United States may reach a deal with China that could shed some light on the mystery of the soldiers’ disappearance.
The Chinese government is expected to open its archives to American POW/MIA investigators.
During much of the Korean War, China ran six prisoner of war camps in North Korea and another smaller one in China that may also have held American POWs. In addition to these camps, China managed several holding camps during the war. It is unknown how many of the missing American servicemen may have been held in any of the camps.
A small U.S. delegation is currently in China, anticipating that a final agreement can be reached by week’s end.
“We just hope that we can find something out of these records that they have. We believe that these records will help us & and hopefully, it will help us unlock clues as to the fate of our missing,” said Capt. Mary Olsen, a spokesperson for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO).
Once an agreement is signed later this week, U.S. officials hope a timetable can be reached soon for American investigators to begin researching the Chinese files, which DPMO has been seeking access to for years.
Though the U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, DPMO research teams were allowed to conduct excavations for possible remains of missing servicemen at various sites in North Korea from 1996 through 2005. Those excavations were temporarily suspended in 2005, when concerns mounted over North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear program.
“We’re hoping this will help us out. This is a very first step, and very positive,” said Olsen.
Olsen said past excavations had taken place near the sites of some of the Chinese-run POW camps.