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[Opinion] Second Anniversary of the West Sea Battle

Posted June. 28, 2004 22:33,   


June is a month with a special significance in our modern history, even if we do not recall the Korean War. The 1987 June civil uprising paved the way and matured Korea’s democracy a step further. 1994’s June is remembered as the “season of crisis,” with the U.S. setting up plans to bomb North Korea after tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear development heightened. What about June of 2002? The whole nation converted into “red devils,” fervently supported the World Cup team, and surprised the entire world, while the accident where two middle-school girls were hit and killed by a U.S. armored vehicle became the starting point of endless candlelight vigils.

There is another reason why we should remember June of 2002. Two years ago, on this exact day when the Korean team was playing the Turkish team for third and fourth place, the West Sea Battle abruptly took place. Around 10:25 a.m., three miles south of the NLL (Northern Limit Line) near Yonpyong Island, six of our soldiers perished in battle when South and North Korean vessels exchanged fire. They were gallant young men, saying, “We will defend the sea, so you, the Korean people can enthusiastically cheer for the World Cup.”

The late Lieutenant Commander Yoon Young-ha (skipper), petty officer first class Han Sang-kook, petty officer first class Hwang Do-hyun, petty officer first class Seo Hoo-won, seaman first class Park Dong-hyuk. I wonder how many people still remember the names of those young men who vanished in the June deep blue sea as scattered blossoms. “I regret that when June comes, everybody only remembers the World Cup and the middle-school girl incident. I cannot lift my head to the heroes of this country, with whom I lived together. Skipper sir, and other members, please forgive this incompetent deputy skipper.” This is part of what first lieutenant Lee Hee-wan (deputy skipper), who lost a leg in the fierce battle, wrote on the Internet in June of last year. Is it first lieutenant Lee who should be asking for forgiveness or the indifferent society that too easily forgets its fallen patriots?

“I miss you so much. Brother, I love you!” (ID: “little sister.”) “I will not forget you. No, I cannot forget you. Thank you. I miss you, Young-ha.” (ID: “Hyo.”) Many writings, missing the fallen soldiers are listed on the Internet site, “In Memory of those deceased in the West Sea Battle,” run by the widow of late petty officer first class Han Sang-kook. Each piece of writing leaves painful bruises in the hearts of those reading them. Should June, the month to remember the veterans, pass us by this way?

Editorialist Song Moon-hong, songmh@donga.com