Relatively low-key entertainments marked the 70th Armed Forces Day at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan, Seoul on Monday.
The event dispensed with the customary big military parade, and instead President Moon Jae-in earlier in the day welcomed the remains of 64 soldiers who were killed in North Korea during the Korean War at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
The soldiers' remains had been excavated by U.S. and North Korean officials in South Hamgyong Province and South Pyongan Province between 1996 and 2005. They were originally sent to Hawaii because they were believed to be the bones of American soldiers until forensic analysis proved otherwise and the U.S. handed them over to South Korea.
When the C-130 transport aircraft carrying them entered South Korean airspace, a squadron of F-15K and FA-50 fighter jets began escorting it. It was the fourth time since May 2012 that a ceremony has been held to welcome back remains of South Korean war dead excavated in North Korea.
But the evening celebrations lacked the large-scale parades of armaments, parachute jumps and columns of soldiers marching through downtown Seoul that marked the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the armed forces. Only 580 soldiers took part.
The event was a mixed bag, with a performance by rapper Psy, a taekwondo demonstration, and troops in futuristic outfits displaying modern combat systems like ground robots, geared more to entertainment than a display of awesome military might.
Conservatives complained that the event felt like appeasement of North Korea instead of the fulsome martial celebration they had hoped for.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "We decided to hold it in prime TV hours so that as many citizens as possible could watch it."
Rapper Psy performs at the War Memorial of Korea in Yongsan, Seoul on Monday. /Yonhap
President Moon Jae-in puts war medals on the remains of 64 South Korean soldiers killed in North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War, at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeongggi Province on Monday. /Yonhap