THE discovery of human remains has spurred calls to resolve the fate of the 44 servicemen listed as missing in action in the Korean War.
On February 10, South Korean military investigators confirmed the discovery of a set of human remains, five buttons from a tunic worn by Australian servicemen, and 23 other artefacts in Hyengsung region northeast of Kapyong, the site of a major engagement involving Australian forces.
It was initially thought the remains could be those of Corporal William Murphy of the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment who was listed as missing on April 24, 1951.
South Korean army investigators advised the Australian authorities in an email also sent to The Australian that in February a resident of the Hyengsung region at Gapyeong-gun said he had seen a foreign serviceman buried in the area.
That had led to the excavation of one set of human remains with coat and hat decorations, the message said.
But the excavation area was 68km northeast of Corporal Murphy's last known location -- a site identified as Mokdong-lee.
Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin told The Australian he would support any investigation where there was prima facie evidence of servicemen missing in action.
"Where there is evidence warranting further investigation, Defence would obviously support taking further action to ensure that information is properly tested," Mr Griffin said yesterday.
He said an army investigation unit did visit South Korea to examine the remains and the artefacts and the work was continuing.
Korean War veterans and their supporters said more work would need to be carried out to plot the last known location of missing pilots.
The RAAF lost 18 pilots, most of them flying high-risk close support missions.
Jim Bourke of Operation Aussies Home, the group responsible for successfully locating and repatriating the remains of missing Australian servicemen from Vietnam and the Indonesian Confrontation, said it was time for more practical steps to help Korean War families.
The ADF lists 44 personnel missing in action in Korea -- 22 soldiers, 18 RAAF airmen, three navy air crew and a transport specialist. Of the 22 soldiers, only one, Corporal Murphy, went missing in South Korea.