SEOUL, South Korea —
America is still Enemy No. 1 to North Koreans, who consider the posting of 28,500 U.S. troops across the border in South Korea to be an “occupation” of the Korean Peninsula.
Hudner is due to arrive at a time known in North Korea as the “anti-American period,” a month devoted to recounting the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by U.S. soldiers during the Korean War and leading up to July 27. Since this is the 60th anniversary of the armistice, it is all the more prominent.
Posters show North Koreans with eyes blazing as they attack American soldiers with bayonets. “Sweep away the imperialist American aggressors,” they read. Students file through exhibition halls that lay out the alleged toll: More than 1.2 million soldiers and civilians killed.
More than 36,000 American military personnel died in Korea fighting as part of the U.S.-led U.N. forces, including the nearly 8,000 never accounted for, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
For decades, the families of missing U.S. soldiers have pressed the government to search for their remains.
The first joint U.S.-North Korea searches began in 1996. Teams uncovered 229 sets of remains, but in 2005, with Washington and Pyongyang locked in a nuclear standoff, the U.S. government suspended the searches, citing security concerns.
Last year, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command prepared to resume the search. But those plans were scrapped following North Korea’s decision to launch a long-range rocket — widely seen as a test of missile technology. Additionally, the search program itself has been criticized as “inept” and “dysfunctional” in an internal Pentagon study recently obtained by the AP.
Hudner and the team don’t know if they’ll find Brown’s remains or the wreckage of the two planes.
But Makos, who intends to make the trip the last chapter of his book about the two men, said Brown’s place in history makes it especially important to make the attempt.
“He’s a Jackie Robinson in many ways. He’s a Joe Louis,” he said. “He’s a historic figure, yet he’s lying on a Korean mountainside.”