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[Opinion] Russian Warships in History to Appear in Korea

[Opinion] Russian Warships in History to Appear in Korea

Posted February. 04, 2004 23:27,   


Russia has bitter memories about Wolmido, located not that far away from Silmido, which also arouses Koreans bitter memories of the past. On February 9, 1904 when Incheon was yet called as Jaemulpo, a Japanese fleet invaded Jaemulpo, crushing a Russia fleet dispatched there completely. The clash took place only one day after Japan made its surprise attack against Russia, as if it were heralding Japan’s victory in the coming 18 month Russo-Japanese War.

The Russian fleet consisted of three warships including an armored cruiser Varyak, Kareyetch. Varyak means Koreans in Russian. I guess, Russians may have wanted to show their desire to control the Korean Peninsula by naming the ship as ‘Koreans’ in their language. However, the Russian fleet had to run away from Jaemulpo at a brink of annihilation, attached by Japanese fleet of a fivefold size. Realizing a disastrous defeat, the Russian captain let his crews get off the ships and then dash towards a Japanese ship by himself, exploding the ship and taking his own life.

Russia lost the war because Russia overestimated Japan’s military capabilities and as well as could not read its ambition and swift moves. Even before the battle in Jaemulpo, Japan had already cut the communication lines of the Russian fleet, making Russian fleet blind. Russia, however, tried to remind of its bitter past, renaming its existing 9,000 ton missile cruiser dispatched in the Pacific Ocean as Varyak in 1989. In addition, last year, Russia also renamed a 1000 ton anti-submarine warship as Kareyetch.

Varyak and Kareyetch will come to Incheon after 100 years. Three Russian warships which left Vladivostok on Feb 3 will arrive in Incheon on Feb 10 for a ceremonial event for the Jamulpo battle. This will reminds us the history of the Korean Peninsula back in early 1900s when neighboring strong powers tried to gain their control over Korea. Russia will make a firm resolution not to lose its grip of power in the North East Asia at the ceremony, reminding of its bitter past.

But let me ask how much we are trying to remind of our bitter past when we even had to offer our country as a battle of other nations.

Moscow Correspondent Kim ki-hyeon, kimkihy@donga.com