Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

North Korea Says Thousands Of U.S. Soldiers' Remains Are At Risk

The remains of thousands of U.S. soldiers who died in the Korean War are "left here and there uncared and carried away en masse," a North Korean military spokesman said Monday.

He said the remains are being put at risk by large construction projects – and by the halting of joint recovery efforts. North Korea is estimated to contain the remains of more than 5,000 American soldiers.

From Seoul, Jason Strother reports:

"In a statement carried by North Korea's official media, a military spokesperson said U.S. remains are being unearthed and carried away to make room for development projects. It struck both a tone of concern and hostility, expressing some urgency to bring American soldiers back home but also claiming that Washington doesn't really care about its deceased troops.

"There has not been a joint search for American remains since 2005. That was called off over security concerns. An agreement in 2011 to resume battlefield excavations fell apart after Pyongyang carried out banned rocket tests."

Quoting more of the spokesman's statement, the AP says he added that "The Obama administration should not forget even a moment the proverb saying that even a skeleton cries out of yearning for the homeland."

The news agency describes the announcement as "an apparent effort to pressure Washington to resume recovery efforts that could also lead to much-needed money for the impoverished country."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.