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10th Anniversary of Inter-Korean Sea Battle Observed

Posted June. 16, 2009 01:02,   


An announcement at 11:40 a.m. yesterday in waters off Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, signaled the start of a naval drill on the Yoon Young-ha, a next-generation high-speed battleship.

Naval soldiers clad in bulletproof helmets and life jackets scrambled across the ship seconds after the announcement. Two men in charge of ammunition ran into the controller of a 40-milimeter cannon at the stern.

Soon after, the gun barrel started to move horizontally and vertically to lock on its target and ready itself to fire.

In front of the gun, the Daeseong ballistic missile capable of hitting an enemy ship up to 140 kilometers away was aimed at the sky. A 76-milimeter gun at the bow also locked on the enemy.

In the pilot booth, Lt. Cdr. Ahn Ji-yeong, the ship’s captain, gave a set of instructions while steersmen kept replying.

At 1 p.m., Ahn said, “Dismissed from battle arrangement!” Naval servicemen finally relaxed after being on high alert and took off their bulletproof helmets. They also started to smile again.

The mobile and battle arrangement drill of the Yoon Young-ha marked the 10th anniversary of the First Battle of Yeonpyeong (Island) in 1999 against North Korea. The vessel is South Korea’s first KPG, or a high-tech warship armed with ballistic missiles, and was named after Lt. Cdr. Yoon Young-ha, who was killed in the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong in 2002.

Ahn was the chief of the speedboat Chamsuri that defeated North Korean patrol boats in the first battle. The revived ship Yoon Young-ha has been deployed to waters near the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea, where inter-Korean tension has been rising.

At 9:40 a.m. at the 2nd Naval Command in Pyeongtaek, a ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of the first battle. The event had been hosted by the command but Navy headquarters promoted the level of the ceremony by hosting it this year.

A Navy official said, “We have reorganized the ceremony to help maintain a watertight defensive readiness and renew our commitment to defeat an enemy attack in the event of aggression through the proud history of our victory.”

Admiral Jung Ok-keun, chief of naval operations, said in a speech, “The First Battle of Yeonpyeong was the first regular inter-Korean battle since the end of the Korean War. The Navy overwhelmingly defeated the North.”

“We must keep in mind that a third Yeonpyeong battle could happen at any time,” he said, adding, “I hope our soldiers commit themselves to a harsher revenge (if they cut a finger, we cut their hand) if North Korean forces attack us. We must also carry on the legacy of our perfect victory over the North 10 years ago.”

The ceremony was attended by commanders and seamen involved in the first battle; leading Navy and Marine commanders; Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Moon-soo; Rep. Won Yoo-chul of the ruling Grand National Party; and Rep. Jung Jang-sun of the main opposition Democratic Party.

Ret. Major Gen. Park Jung-sung, who was commander of the 2nd Naval Command in the 1999 battle, said after the ceremony, “Our troops suffered dearly in the battle because our government at that time banned soldiers from firing preemptively and thus forced us to keep a low profile.”

“Due to the sunshine policy of previous leftist governments, we’ve felt like criminals over the past decade, though the victory in the First Battle of Yeonpyeong is our proud legacy. At that time, the government would blindly stage propaganda that a war would never happen, and we were caught off guard by the North.”

The First Battle of Yeonpyeong erupted at 9:28 a.m. on June 15, 1999, when a North Korean patrol boat launched a surprise attack. The clash ended just 14 minutes afterwards after the South Korean Navy counterattacked.

The North lost one torpedo vessel and five of its battleships were destroyed while four of its vessels were badly damaged. More than 30 North Korean seamen were killed and 70 others injured.

South Korea incurred partial damage on one patrol ship and four speedboats, with nine servicemen suffering minor injuries.