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Hero`s Return

Posted June. 17, 2003 21:39,   


Navy Sublieutenant Lee Hee-wan (27), a sailor critically injured during the naval clash in the West Sea on June 29 last year, could hardly speak when he received a phone call Tuesday. Recognizing his achievements in the naval clash, the Navy notified him of its decision reinstate him as a Navy officer. Before he received the phone call, he was discharged from the Navy because of the low grade he got two months ago during a physical check-up. This enabled Sublieutenant Lee to continue his career as a sailor, returning to his job as a researcher at the Naval Institute for Maritime Affairs attached to the Korea Naval Academy.

"I wanted to captain a destroyer, but now I can`t. It`s frustrating. I`ll do my best to carry out my mission as a sailor though. It`s something I should do for my fellow sailors who died in that clash," said Lee.

Six people including the captain of the sunken ship the Yun Yeong-ha were killed and 18 were severely injured in the attack by a North Korean patrol boat that crossed the Northern Limit Line. Despite severe injury, Lee Hee-wan encouraged his soldiers and fought fiercely.

"Every one fought fiercely while their fellow sailors were dying during the attack. We were all determined to guard the NLL by any means," said Lee.

He lost his right leg and his left leg was badly injured during the clash. Now he can walk with a cane after nine operations and relentless rehabilitation.

"I had a dream of sailing a warship a few days ago. My fellow sailors were smiling brightly in my dream."

During his visit to the National Cemetery in Taejeon, Lee renewed his commitment to be a strong sailor whom his comrades killed in the naval clash would have been proud of. He hoped that the sailors who sacrificed their lives in the naval clash in the West Sea would be remembered forever by the Korean people.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com