Children who were drafted into the military during the 1950-53 Korean War are now entering their twilight years, but they have never been honored for their service to their country because the government refused to admit their existence.
The government feared that that would mean admitting it violated international laws that ban drafting minors under the age of 18.
Early this year, the Defense Ministry finally admitted that thousands of child soldiers were drafted into service, 62 years after the start of the war. The ministry on Wednesday confirmed that 29,603 young boys were drafted from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, and 2,573 of them were killed. Today, only 7,500 are still alive. Some 467 girls were also drafted.
The only compensation they get is W120,000 a month the government pays to those over 75 according to regulations on the treatment of war veterans. The amount has increased from W50,000 since the laws were revised in 2001.
About one third of the surviving child soldiers are believed to be receiving no pay at all because they failed to register, according to an association of Korean War child soldiers set up in Daegu in 1996.