After 6 Decades, Hunt for US Bombs in N. Korea Continues

Search teams still find explosives frequently
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 24, 2017 10:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – In the 10 years he has been digging up ordnance from the Korean War, Maj. Jong Il Hyon has lost five colleagues to explosions. He carries a lighter that one gave him before he died. He also bears a scar on his left cheek from a bomb disposal mission gone wrong, per the AP. Sixty-four years after a truce was reached, the war is still giving up thousands of bombs, mortars, and pieces of live ammunition. Virtually all of it is American, but Jong noted that more than a dozen other countries fought on the US side, and every now and then their bombs will turn up as well. "The experts say it will take 100 years to clean up all of the unexploded ordnance, but I think it will take much longer," Jong said at a construction site on the outskirts of Hamhung, North Korea's second-largest city.

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There, workers unearthed a rusted but still potentially deadly mortar round in February. Last October, 370 more were found in a nearby elementary school playground. According to Jong, his bomb squad is one of nine in North Korea, one for each province. His unit alone handled 2,900 leftover explosives last year. He said this year they've already disposed of about 1,200. North Koreans claim 400,000 bombs were dropped on Pyongyang alone, roughly one bomb for every resident at the time, and that only two modern buildings in the capital were left standing. All told, the US dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea during the war, most of it in the North, including with 32,500 tons of napalm. Between 12% and 15% of the North's population was killed in the war. (Read more Korean War stories.)

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