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Korean War POW/MIA Briefing Book

NCNK Publications

NCNK Issue Brief: Korean War POW/MIAs There are approximately 7,800 Korean War POW/MIAs from the United States who remain unaccounted for, with an estimated 5,500 buried in North Korea. This issue brief reviews the history of POW transfers at the end of the Korean War, and details the remains recovery operations that have occurred since then.


Government Web Sites and Reports

Korean War Accounting - Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.  The DPAA website has the most up-to-date government information on Korean War POW/MIA Resources. This links to the home page for Korea, where there are links to many other resources including a listing of all Korean War personnel still unaccounted for. 

Defense Department Inspector General Report: Assessment of the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Community October 2014 report finding that DoD POW/MIA accounting community had not been able to effectively perform its mission.

Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation, Organizational Structure Review of the Personnel Accounting Community This March 2014 Defense Department report reviews the structure and processes of the Defense Personnel Accounting Community, and makes recommendations for improvements.

GAO Report on DOD's POW/MIA Mission Top-Level Leadership Attention Needed to Resolve Longstanding Challenges in Accounting for Missing Persons from Past Conflicts.

CRS Letter: Korean War POW/MIA Punchbowl Remains This letter from the Congressional Research Service was written by Specialist in Military Manpower Policy Charles Henning in response to an August 3, 2011 letter from Sen. Richard Lugar. It addresses remains of Korean war POW/MIAs buried in the Hawaiian cemetery known as the Punch Bowl, and related issues. The letter is dated September 27, 2011.

POWS and MIAs Status and Accounting Issues (CRS RL 33452) This 2006 Congressional Research Service report covers all POW/MIA accounting efforts related to 20th century wars. This report was updated on June 1, 2006.

KCNA Statements on Korean War POW/MIA Issues This file contains a compilation of recent statements from North Korea's state-controlled news outlet concerning Korean War POW/MIA issues. It will be updated periodically.


Congressional Hearings

Government Accountability Office Review of the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Community and the Restructuring of These Agencies as Proposed by the Department of Defense Hearing before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, July 15, 2014. Includes testimony from Michael Lumpkin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict; and Jamie Morin, Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, Department of Defense.

Mismanagement of POW/MIA Accounting On August 1, 2013, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight held a hearing to investigate allegations that the recovery process between JPAC and DCMO was under threat of complete failure from a leaked report. Witnesses included Major General Kelly K. McKeague, Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command; Maj. General (ret.) W. Montague Winfield, Director of the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office; and John A. Goines, Chief of the U.S. Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory.

Department of Defense's Challenges in Accounting for Missing Persons from Past Conflicts On August 1, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee Military Personnel Subcommittee also held a hearing into the internal report on failures in the remains recovery process. Dr. Paul M. Cole and Ms. Brenda S. Farrell both gave their remarks to the committee, highlighting issues that have plagued efficiency in the workplace.

Improving Recovery and Full Accounting of POW/MIA Personnel from all Past Conflicts  A transcript of a hearing held on April 2, 2009 before Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services. Government witnesses include Rear Adm. Donna L Crip and Deputy Assistant Secretary Charles A. Ray. Other witnesses include POW/MIA advocate Ron Broward, former Marine Frank Metersky and Robin Piacine, Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs.

Oversight and Status of POW/MIA Activities  A transcript of a hearing held on July 10, 2008 before the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services, addressing topics such as the resumption of joint field operations in the DPRK and the rate of identification of remains already recovered.

Worldwide Review of the Clinton Administration's POW/MIA Policies and Programs This is a transcript of a hearing held before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives on June 7th, 1998. The hearing analyzed the Clinton Administration's efforts to account for POW/MIAs of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The hearing yielded both praise and criticism for U.S. policies. 

Regarding Restoration of Missing Persons Act A transcript of an unsuccessful hearing on September 10th 1996 regarding H.R. 4000 led by Robert K. Dornan (R-CA). Dornan attempted to add a provision called the 'POW/MIA Protection Act' in order to revise rules of the existing 'Missing Serviceman Personnel Act'. The addition would ensure an honest accounting of POW/MIAs with the promise of full disclosure of any known information to family members.

Status of POW/MIA Negotiations with North Korea This is a transcript of a hearing held on June 20, 1996 before the Military and Personnel Subcommittee of the House Committee on National Security. Witnesses include Insung O. Lee, DPMO Analyst and Paul Cole, Researcher and former DOD Archivist in Russia and East Europe.  

Cold War, Korea, WWII POW's This is the transcript of the two days of hearings before the Select Committee on POW Affairs held  November 9-10 1992 regarding Cold War, Korea, WW II POWs. The Select Committee, which had been created as a result of a Senate resolution, initially focused on POWs in Indochina. However, the original mandate included POWs from other wars.  Witnesses included Rand researcher Paul Cole, Lt. Col. Philip Corso, who had served in the NSC during the Eisenhower administration and Charles Kartman, then director of the Office of Korean Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.

POW/MIA in Indochina and Korea A transcript on a hearing held before the Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of Foreign Affairs on June 25th, 1990 to examine federal efforts to account for POW/MIAs in North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The hearing discussed further efforts to account for MIA/POWs in those areas alongside an overview of negotiations and relations with said countries. 

Report of the POW/MIA Task Force Fact-Finding Mission to Bangkok, Hanoi, and Seoul A report was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Relations regarding a trip made by a Congressional Delegation led by the 'House Task Force on American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia' Chairman Gerald B.H. Solomon (R-NY) and Vice Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY) from February 11th - 18th, 1986. The delegation visited Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea and examined the host  governments' efforts to obtain an accounting of American POW/MIAs. In Seoul, the delegation engaged on the topic of POW/MIAs from the Korean War - the North Koreans were low-key, but expressed willingness to cooperate. Overall, the report concluded that no new information was attained and urged action from the Task Force and the Department of Defense. 

Laws, Resolutions, and Policies

10 U.S. Code, Chapter 76 - Missing Persons This section of the U.S. Code compiles laws related to Defense Department accounting of missing persons, including remains recovery and identification efforts.

Concurrent Return Policy The US adopts a principle mandating bodies be recovered and repatriated. This system ultimately replaced the WWII system of creating temporary cemeteries on an ad hoc basis for conflicts, alongside the Graves Registration Service.

Code of Conduct (Executive Order 10631) President Eisenhower signed a revision of the Code of Conduct for all members of the Armed Forces indicating that: “No American prisoner of war shall be forgotten…Every available means will be employed by our Government to establish contact with, to support, and obtain release of all our prisoners of war.”

Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291) – Language Relevant to POW/MIA Remains Recovery Operations This legislation includes a section requiring the Defense Department to designate a single agency for have responsibility for matters relating to missing service members and civilian employees, including identification and remains recovery issues.

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2014 -- Language Relevant to POW/MIA Issues This legislation includes a section requiring the Defense Department to report on efforts to improve POW/MIA accounting efforts. 

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013 -- Language Relevant to POW/MIA Issues This Report on the House version of the FY 2013 NDAA (H.R. 4310) contains language directing a review of the Defense Department’s efforts to increase its identifications of unaccounted-for personnel from previous wars, including the Korean War. H.R. 4310 also contained a provision allowing volunteers to assist the Defense Department in efforts to account for missing personnel. 

H. Res. 376 -- Calling for the Repatriation of POW/MIAs and Abductees from the Korean War This resolution, submitted by Representative Charles Rangel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 27, 2011, calls upon North Korea to repatriate any living American and South Korean POWs and civilian abductees from the Korean War, and calls upon the US government to resume search and recovery operations for the remains of American POWs in North Korea.  The Resolution was passed by voice vote on December 13, 2011. 

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2010 Section on POW/MIA Identification As part of the funding authorization for the US military in FY 2010, Congress required the Secretary of Defense to implement a program to identify unaccounted for POW/MIAs from conflicts including the Korean War. The law requires the Department of Defense to provide enough resources to identify at least 200 missing persons annually, beginning in FY 2015.

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2005 Section 582 Established on October 28th, 2004, this legislation included a provision that required the Department of Defense to maintain a certain budget and number of military/civilian personnel within the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO). It also required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study whether current funding and staffing was sufficient for making progress on POW/MIA issues. 

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2004 Section 588 Created in November 24th, 2003, this section of the NDAA included general language encouraging more focus on resolving POW/MIA cases, though mostly in specific reference to Gulf War MIAs (the Speicher case). 

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1994 - 1998 -- Language Relevant to POW/MIA Issues Funding authorization legislation for the US military created and signed into law from 1993 - 1997 contained sections regarding POW/MIA issues. The discourse within these sections would become the foundation for language in POW/MIA sections of later NDAA acts.

H. Res. 4000 -- This resolution, formed July 2nd 1996, was introduced by Robert K. Dornan (R-CA) and sought to amend Title 10, U.S. Code, Chapter 76 (relating to missing persons) as in effect before the amendments made by NDAA FY 1997. it would refine and supplement the definition of 'missing person' and expound on the implications of the term's functions within the civilian and military fields (including the needed duration of time to be classified as such). This bill did not pass in the Senate.

H. Res. 460 -- The Vietnam and Korea POW/MIA Rescue Act Introduced on January 9th, 1995 by Fred Upton (R-MI), this legislation sought to provide asylum in the United States to North Korean, South Korean, and Chinese nationals whom assisted in returning living Korean POW/MIAs to the United States. This bill did not pass in the Senate.

H. Res. 2038-9, Section 406 (Public Law 102-183) In 1991 Congressman John Miller (R-WA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation calling for more complete accounting of POW/MIAs from both the Korean War and WWII. This became the main impetus for a study conducted by the Department of Defense to locate, declassify, and release records concerning the issue.

H. Res. 3603 -- Truth Accountability Bill The House unanimously (401-0) passed this legislation in 1990, but was unable to pass in the Senate in 1992. The bill required any government agency or department with live-sighting reports and any information whatsoever on POW/MIAs from previous conflicts (Korean, Vietnam Wars, WWII, etc.) to make that knowledge publically available and known. 

Advocacy Groups

Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POWs/MIAs 

Korea Cold War Families of the Missing 

Korean War MIA/POW Network

Korean War Casualties Database

Korean War Veterans Association 

National Alliance of Families


 Other Resources

Ken Quinones: The US-DPRK Agreed Framework and the U.S. Army's Return to North Korea This paper describes the negotiations leading to the joint recovery missions that took place in the DPRK between 1996 and 2005. 

Operation Glory: Condensed from Graves Registration Division Korean Communications Zone (KCOMZ) Historical Summary July-December 1954  

2011-2013 POW/MIA News Digest. This webpage summarizes news stories concerning the failed attempt in 2012 to resume remains recovery operations in North Korea, and subsequent related issues. 

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen press statement on Senate Passage of North Korea Sanctions Legislation that includes her amendment protecting remains recovery activities.