Nearly seven decades after the Korean War, winds of change in North Korea's relations with the international community raise hope for hundreds of families in Turkey, a country with little interaction with North Korea save for the 1950-53 war. Turkey's Habertürk newspaper reported that North Korea would return the remains of some 500 Turkish soldiers that died in the war. The news comes on the heels of the historic U.S.-North Korea summit earlier this month that ended with a commitment from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to return the remains of American troops recovered from battle sites in his country.
Turkey joined the Korean War under the U.N. Command from 1950 to 1953 to support South Korea in its struggle for freedom, democracy and independence. Some 890 Turkish troops were killed in the war.
Ersin Erçin, Turkish Ambassador in Seoul who visited North Korea last week for formal talks on return of remains, told Habertürk that Turkey first started the identification process for martyrs of the Korean War in 2001, after first diplomatic contact was established between Turkey and North Korea. He said after disruption in diplomatic contacts due to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, they resumed contact following the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore on June 12. The ambassador said they would hand over DNA samples from slain soldiers' families to North Korea for the identification process though it would be lengthy work. The ambassador said it was not decided yet whether the Turkish martyrs would be buried in a United Nations cemetery for fallen soldiers of the Korean War in South Korea or repatriated to Turkey.