More than 7000 US troops who fought in the Korean War are unaccounted for, with approximately 5300 lost in what is now North Korea.
Richard Downes, whose father, Air Force Lt. Hal Downes, is among the Korean War missing, said this turnover of remains, having drawn worldwide attention, has the potential to put the US back on track to finding and eventually identifying many more. They were welcomed home to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam by Vice President Mike Pence, who described the event as "just a beginning" as work will not stop until all of the missing are fully accounted for.
North Korea returned 55 boxes of remains as part of a denuclearization agreement reached between its leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump at their Singapore summit in June.
The condition of some of the remains is decidedly better than that of others.
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"We noticed. within a few seconds of opening up the box, and pulling him out, that we think this individual is African American and tall and slender", Byrd said.
The U.S. estimates that some 5,300 American soldiers' remains have yet to be recovered from North Korea.
Byrd acknowledged that it could take months for the next round of identifications.
The July transfer coincided with the 65th anniversary of the 1953 armistice that ended fighting between North Korean and Chinese forces and South Korean and US-led forces under the UN Command. Jennie Jin and Byrd, who were the coordinators at the Korean War agency's Project, elaborated and said that the identification process is painstaking which also includes finding DNA from within the bone fragments. The two nations are still technically at war, but hostilities ended following the signing of what was meant to be a temporary armistice in 1953.