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Cheonan Victims Laid to Rest in 5-hour Funeral

Posted April. 30, 2010 05:35,   


The funeral for the 46 crewman killed in the sinking of the naval patrol vessel Cheonan Thursday was greeted by favorable weather.

Many had worried over the possibility of heavy rainfall and strong winds, but the day saw a high of 13 degrees Celsius and no major weather problems. Amid the sunlight, chrysanthemums, paper-folded planes and balloons, the funeral procession left the 2nd Naval Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

The funeral cortege of 87 vehicles, including 10 buses carrying the victims’ bereaved families, covered 12 kilometers of an expressway. The remains of the 46 sailors were buried at Daejeon National Cemetery at 4:20 p.m. while their relatives wailed and prayed.

The funeral was held at a park inside the command from 10 a.m. Some 1,400 relatives of the victims and about 2,800 people including President Lee Myung-bak, former President Chun Doo-hwan, Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon, and National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o attended.

President Lee grabbed the hands of the bereaved family members one by one. After offering flowers and incense to the deceased, he awarded posthumous honors to them.

The funeral’s atmosphere went from solemn and quiet to a sea of tears as posthumous honors were awarded and flowers offered. Bereaved relatives wailed in front of the portraits of their loved ones and others collapsed while calling their names.

After a floral tribute, the mother of the late Senior Chief Petty Officer Min Pyeong-ki approached the chairman of the progressive Democratic Labor Party, Kang Ki-kap, who was seated in the front row. She said, “North Koreans killed my son. Please, never say (we should assist North Korea),” and then collapsed.

The 13-year-old son of the late warrant officer Lee Chang-ki scattered flowers and fought back his tears while comforting his mother. Other bereaved relatives wailed in grabbing cinerary urns, but Lee’s family could not since his body was not found.

When Lee’s portrait carried by Cheonan Captain Choi Won-il left the park and other portraits followed, the bereaved relatives began weeping again.

When the funeral procession left the park around 11:10 a.m., 10 naval ships anchored at a nearby port sounded their whistles in tribute at the same time. Black and white balloons were released to honor the deceased. All crewmen aboard the ships gave a salute when the funeral procession passed.

Yoo Sang-ryeol, 69, who attended the funeral, said, “I came here to bid farewell to the crewmen who sacrificed themselves for our country.”

People at a naval apartment complex also offered their condolences, with some 500 residents strewing chrysanthemums on the road that the funeral cortege passed. They continued praying for the victims even after the cortege left. Kim Soo-hyang, a resident of the complex, said, “I’m praying for their souls.”

Students at Wonjeong Elementary School, which is nicknamed “2nd Naval Fleet Elementary School” because a large number of children of crewmen go there, bid their last farewells to the Cheonan victims. The 286 students flew paper-folded planes.

Yang So-jin, a 10-year-old student, wrote a prayer on a plane reading, “Please secure our oceans in heaven,” and flew it toward the funeral procession.

An association of the victims’ families said 100 bereaved relatives will visit the waters where the Cheonan sank Friday to hold a memorial service. The families of six missing crewmen will also participate in the service.