South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs said Tuesday that it would correct misspelled and missing names at the Korean War Veterans Memorial’s newest focal point: a remembrance wall with the names of U.S. and Korean soldiers killed in action during the Korean War.
“There must not be even a single error on the Wall,” the ministry said in a statement to Yonhap. “By taking an exhaustive review in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense and South Korea’s defense ministry, [we] will swiftly confirm any errors and rectify them if there are any.”
The New York Times first reported that the Wall of Remembrance includes 1,015 misspelled names and 245 names of service members who didn’t die from circumstances of the war, while leaving out around 500 names of service members that should be listed.
Initial concerns about the possible errors, however, came well before the structure’s completion. Military Times reported that the advocates from the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation questioned the reliability of the Defense Casualty Analysis System database, which the Pentagon used to provide the list of the names to the foundation.
At the time, researchers from the Korean War Project estimated that there were more than 2,000 name discrepancies in the government database list made available by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Latino service members were also impacted by the erroneous list. Many Puerto Rican service members used both paternal and maternal last names, Noemi Figueroa-Soulet, a Puerto Rican veterans advocate, wrote in a letter to foundation officials.
Army Pvt. Nelson Galarza-Lebron, she said, was listed as “Nelson G. Lebron” in the database, making it difficult — if not impossible — for family members to find his name. Galarza-Lebron died in October 1952 after sustaining wounds in combat.
This is not the first time that exact figures on those killed during combat in the Korean War have come into question. For years, the Pentagon claimed that U.S. forces sustained more than 50,000 battle deaths during the conflict. That number appeared to be inflated, but not before the statistic was etched into the original Korean War Memorial in the 1990′s.
In 2000, the Pentagon corrected the record, stating that a clerk in the department added together all battle deaths with deaths marked as “other.” The official figure for battle deaths in the war now stands at 36,516.
Work on the addition of the wall began in March 2021 and cost an estimated $22 million, according to the National Park service. Fundraising efforts for the addition began after Congress passed the Korean War Veterans Memorial Wall of Remembrance Act in 2016 — and finished after the foundation raised the money through American and South Korean private citizens and corporations.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.