South Korea to Implement DNA Testing for Unclaimed North Korean Bodies

SEOUL—The South Korean Unification Ministry announced plans on Monday to conduct genetic testing on the bodies of North Koreans found within its territorial waters or along its coastlines, should North Korea continue to decline their repatriation. This initiative is designed to assist the families of the deceased in North Korea in identifying their relatives, in light of North Korea's consistent refusal to accept the bodies amid deteriorating inter-Korean relations.

According to Yonhap News Agency, The ministry, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, intends to amend a relevant directive to facilitate this process. Typically, when the bodies of North Korean citizens are discovered in South Korea due to flooding or other incidents, the South Korean government attempts to return them to North Korea. However, if the North refuses to accept them, these bodies are cremated in collaboration with the provincial governments involved, following established procedures.

Since North Korea severed the inter-Korean liaison channel in April of the previous year, it has not responded to Seoul's attempts to repatriate such bodies in May and September. The South Korean government has been conducting genetic tests on separated families since 2014 to create a database that could be used to reunite relatives in North Korea posthumously. The ministry stated that the new measure aims to extend this policy on humanitarian grounds.

Since 2010, a total of 29 bodies of North Korean nationals have been found in South Korea. Of these, North Korea has agreed to accept the return of bodies in 23 instances, with the most recent acceptance occurring in 2019.

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