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Xmas spirit, lights, carols absent on Yeonpyeong Island

Posted December. 25, 2010 11:28,   


Aside from the Dangseom ferry for speedboats, Yeonpyeong Island has an inlet at the entrance of a village where fishing boats are moored. On Friday, a Dong-A Ilbo reporter met a 61-old-man who sighed deeply while smoking a cigarette in front of the dusk-filled inlet.

Nineteen days had passed since the reporter was last on Yeonpyeong after North Korea shelled the frontline island.

The man struck up a conversation after seeing the reporter. “That`s my boat,” he said, pointing to the biggest boat at the inlet. “I haven’t sailed on it for so long, too many water weeds have gotten stuck on its bottom. So the boat cannot sail fast.”

He added that he could not give the boat a biannual painting or repair its engine. “Boats are the same as people. If you don’t take care of them, they get sick,” he said, puffing a cigarette.

After the North’s artillery attack, the loudest sounds that can be heard on the dusk-filled Yeonpyeong are those from the waves and winds.

Residents say that before the shelling, the area in front of the inlet was crowded with people. People used to fish on the shore even in the middle of the night, while fishermen who returned from a hard day’s work went to karaoke boxes to sing their favorite tunes.

Now, few will go to sea even if offered extra money. Nevertheless, boat owners have recently made large amounts of kimchi for crewmen who will set out next year.

While mainland cities are in a festive mood with bright lights and Christmas carols before the holiday, the year-end festive mood is largely absent on the island.

Father Kim Tae-heon at Yeonpyeong Cathedral, the lone Catholic church on the island, celebrated Mass on Christmas Eve around 8 p.m. with some 10 residents and solders. Afterwards, he made rice cake soup to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.

The Rev. Song Jung-seop of Yeonpyeong Church also walked around the shelled village with about 10 followers singing hymns.

Life is extremely harsh on Yeonpyeong, where the water pipes get frozen even in slightly cold weather and only one convenience store is open. Still, residents there check water pipes and boilers for their neighbors who have yet to return to the island.