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[Editorial] Rest in Peace, 2002 Naval Battle Heroes

Posted January. 08, 2008 08:16,   


The incoming Lee Myung-bak administration plans to hold a national memorial for those killed in a naval clash with North Korea in the Yellow Sea nearly six years ago.

On June 29, 2002, a North Korean patrol vessel crossed the Northern Limit Line just off Yeonpyeong Island, and opened fire on the South Korean speedboat Chamsuri 357. Six South Korean sailors were killed, including Lt. Commander Yoon Young-ha. The Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, however, tried to keep their distance from the naval skirmish by instructing the Second Fleet Command, responsible for the Yellow Sea, to supervise the memorial service. For instance, it was only last year when the prime minister attended the ceremony for the first time, in the face of mounting criticism from both the public and the families of the deceased soldiers.

Kim and Roh’s leftist governments were so desperate to curry favor with the North Korean government that they never offered condolences to the deceased patriots and their families. This further weakened military morale and damaged national identity. The widow of Petty Officer 1st Class Han Sang-guk lamented the situation, saying, “How can this country expect any of its soldiers to fight on the battlefield?” She ended up immigrating to another country in 2005, leaving her motherland that her husband protected at the cost of his life.

Close aides to the Roh administration continue to ignore the problem, and even make reckless comments on the matter. When Pyongyang demanded that the inter-Korean western sea border be redrawn, Seoul’s Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung made it sound as if our soldiers, who risked their lives to defend their homeland against the North’s offensive, responded inappropriately. “We should reflect on the naval battle with regard to our security methodology,” he said. His comment was no different from killing our heroes once more. The public has raised questions numerous times on the identity of pro-North Korea forces of the leftist Roh administration, including Lee, but have never reflected on themselves.

The incoming administration must make it clear that the Republic of Korea has been built on the sacrifice of numerous fallen soldiers. The first step to do so will be holding the naval battle memorial service under the auspices of the government.