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[Opinion] Oh! Captain Seon Hyo-seon

Posted February. 23, 2008 05:30,   


At around 9 p.m. on Feb. 19, an army corporal at a base in Gangwon Province showed signs of a brain hemorrhage following a head injury. An immediate evacuation was underway to take him to a military hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. Nurse Capt. Seon Hyo-seon, who returned to the base three months earlier after finishing maternity leave, never could have imagined what would happen that night. As usual, she left the office after finishing her work, saying, “Call me anytime if there’s any emergency.” After a late phone conversation with her mother-in-law she went to bed at 11:55 p.m. only to be awoken soon afterwards and on a helicopter.

After her helicopter successfully transported the injured soldier to the military hospital, Capt. Seon left on the military chopper to return to base at around 12:55 a.m. early that morning. However, about 15 minutes after take off, the helicopter began to shake in abrupt turbulence after flying over a mountain near Mount Yongmun in Yangpyeong. The UH-1H helicopter crashed into a dark mountainside east of Seoul, killing all seven soldiers and crew members on board. At the accident scene, a military bag and shoes marked “Seon Hyo-seon” were written on them. Capt. Seon died, leaving behind two young girls: a 30-month-old and a six-month baby.

The tragedy, in which seven fellow soldiers lost their lives to save one, is similar to the American-made film, “Saving Private Ryan.” During World War II, eight U.S. paratroopers were sent on a mission to save a comrade, Private Ryan, who’s stuck behind enemy lines. The U.S. soldiers are reluctant at first about risking eight lives to save one. But they eventually agree to carry out the operation to rescue Ryan, who is struggling for his life. According to the movie, though the soldiers succeed in saving Ryan, three comrades are killed in action. The film was much acclaimed for its strong emotive battlefield themes where everything comes down to kill or be killed.

During the Kosovo War in 1995, Scott F. O`Grady, an Air Force F-16 pilot, was shot down by an enemy missile over western Bosnia-Herzegovina, an enemy-held territory. Around ten Marines were deployed to save O`Grady. After being rescued, Capt. O`Grady said, “I never once thought my country and comrades would forsake me.” Although the tragic incident did not occur in the battlefields of World War II or the Kosovo War, we deeply respect the noble comradeship and sacrifice Capt. Seon and the other soldiers made. We express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the seven soldiers: Captain Seon, Captain Jeong Jae-hun, Warrant Officers Shin Gi-yong, Hwang Gab-ju, Corporals Kim Beom-jin and Choi Nak-gyeong, and Private Lee Se-in.

Editorial Writer Huh Moon-myung, angelhuh@donga.com