Body of suspected North Korean set to receive burial in South Korea

View from Paju
View from Paju. Image: Yonhap News Agency

The North Korean government has failed to respond to a proposal to return the body of an individual thought to be from North Korea found in the Imjin River in South Korea near Paju, Gyeonggi Province on July 31. The South Korean government subsequently announced on August 26 that it plans to move forward with “internal procedures” for handling unclaimed bodies.

“On August 14, we contacted the North at the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong regarding the body believed to be that of a North Korean resident, found at Gangsang, Imjin River, Paju, Gyeonggi Province,” South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said on Wednesday. “North Korea has not responded to date.”

South Korean government agencies conducted a joint investigation after the discovery of the body. It was determined that the body was likely from North Korea and South Korean authorities proceeded to propose the return of the body to North Korean authorities.

The unification ministry said that North Korea typically responds within two to four days to South Korean requests for communication. However, North Korean officials have sometimes failed to respond in the past when bodies found do not have any identification or other belongings to identify them, the ministry added.

On August 21, the South Korean government told North Korean officials that it was now obliged to deal with the body in accordance with “internal procedures” and requested that Paju move forward with burying the body in a public cemetery.

The body was in an advanced state of decay when it was found in the Imjin River, wearing what appeared to be a shirt for exercise and North Korean army pants. South Korean government authorities noted that fingerprints from the body had no match in the country’s fingerprint identification system and have concluded that the body floated down the river.