N. Korea Sub Crew’s Bodies Returned
PANMUNJOM, Korea (AP) _ U.N. officials returned the remains of nine North Korean submarine crewmen to their homeland today, 11 days after their craft was caught in a South Korean fishing net.
U.N. honor guards handed over nine black wooden coffins to North Korean border guards in a 30-minute ceremony held in Panmunjom, the truce village inside the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.
Five North Korean military officers briefly crossed the border line to inspect each coffin.
A dozen North Korean soldiers saluted as communist honor guards took over the coffins and draped them in red cloth. Unlike similar repatriations in the past, North Korea did not hold its own memorial ceremony or play a dirge for its fallen soldiers.
The 70-ton North Korean submarine was seized June 22 in South Korean waters after its periscope and propeller were tangled in a fishing net.
When South Korean soldiers towed the submarine to shore and opened its hatch, they found nine crewmen dead.
South Korea said the submarine was on an espionage mission and five of its crewmen were shot to death by their commander and three spies, who then killed themselves to avoid capture.
Earlier this week, the American-led U.N. Command agreed to return the bodies after North Korea promised not to use the incident politically.
North Korea had earlier insisted that the sub went adrift because of mechanical troubles and blamed the South for the death of its crew.
The Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and the capitalist South in 1945. The countries are still technically at war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.