North Korea’s propaganda media outlet has recently released a video titled “Have you already forgotten (what happened on) Yeonpyeong Island?” on its website. This comes after South Korea’s Marine Corps commandant Lt. Gen. Lee Seung-do said during an audit last Tuesday that his service has drawn up a scheme to lay Hambak Island in ashes in case of emergency. In response to Lee’s remarks, the North said that even after the 2010 bombardment of Yeonpyeong, the South has failed to come to it senses and is acting thoughtlessly.
Pyongyang has been making more and more reckless remarks against Seoul, while using menacing words to raise tensions between the two Koreas is a typical tactic employed by the North. The attack on Yeonpyeong Island was a devastating incident that took the lives of two South Korean civilians and two marines. Lt. Gen. Lee was a commanding officer of the unit on the island and responded immediately when the North fired artillery shells and rockets, even hitting civilian targets for the first time since the Korean War. It is only natural for Lee to have a strike plan for any contingencies to neutralize North Korean facilities on Hambak Island, which is located above the Northern Limit Line (NLL) but has the lot number of South Korea. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo also evaluated Lee’s comment as having shown “strong willingness” to defend the country.
However, it remains doubtful whether we can say for sure that our military clearly remembers the attack on Yeonpyeong Island. When asked by an opposition lawmaker to issue a state of protest, Jeong said there is no need to respond to each and every move by the North. Yet, though we need not to seriously engage in verbal arguments with Pyongyang, the defense minister’s response leaves an uncomfortable feeling behind as he previously said that the Cheonan ship sinking and the bombardment of Yeonpyeong were “unpleasant collisions that took place in the Yellow Sea.” North Korea’s brazen attitude could be seen as a result of the Seoul government’s generous policies toward Pyongyang which have been put in place in the name of the inter-Korean reconciliation.
The sound of gunfire has stopped since last year near the NLL in the Yellow Sea, as both Koreas agreed to halt all fire drills. South Korea’s marine units stopped conducting drills with K-9 self-propelled artillery at the five islands of the West Sea, having instead firing exercises on land. Still, there has been no progress on this front since then. Nevertheless, North Korea is rather going back to the way it used to rely on to threaten the South. The military does not talk but shows what it could do through its preparedness and readiness posture. We should keep in mind that the North may mistake the South’s patience and tolerance for weakness and carelessness.