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Island stuck in tense state 2 years after NK shelling attack

Island stuck in tense state 2 years after NK shelling attack

Posted November. 23, 2012 04:56,   


South Korea`s frontline island of Yeonpyeong has not fully healed from North Korea`s artillery attack that occurred two years ago.

A Dong-A Ilbo reporter visiting the island Monday found that the island retained many scars from the shelling it suffered in 2010. A hill burned by flames remained naked, and some 100 red flags marking the spots hit by shells quietly testified to the terrible scenes of that fateful day.

Observation posts on the island were in a tense atmosphere. A North Korean coastal artillery position and Jangjae Island, where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited in August on an unarmed wooden boat, came into sight from Yeonpyeong. The troops and coastal guns of the North`s 4th Corps aimed at Yeonpyeong and four other South Korean frontline islands.

South Korean Marines say that since Kim`s visit, the North Korean military has been reinforcing its coastal artillery positions and building new buildings on Jangjae, which is just 7 kilometers away from Yeonpyeong.

“We keep hearing blasts from the construction sites for cave artillery positions and traffic roads,” a Marine official said.

South Korea also installed concrete defense walls on all buildings in areas where Marines are stationed. Trenches linking artillery positions were reinforced with 4,000 drums filled with sand and 300,000 sandbags.

As darkness descended in the Yeonpyeong area, Marines began a nighttime firing drill. Flares fired by 81-millimeter mortars lit up the sky over the night sea, prompting coastal artillery positions ready to fire.

“Three, two, one, fire!”

After the order was given, M-48 tanks, coastal artillery and K-6 heavy machine guns brought heavy fire on an imaginary target with thundering noises. Balkan guns positioned halfway up a mountain also sprayed bullets on an imaginary enemy aircraft infiltrating from the air.

“Every time we conduct a firing drill, the North Korean military is on emergency alert,” said another Marine official. “We are maintaining the highest level of combat readiness so that we can fire back within 10 minutes after fired on.” A 20-year-old soldier said, “If the enemy provokes us again, we will grind them and make them pay for killing our brothers in arms two years ago.”

Capt. Kim Jeong-soo, who was commander of an artillery company at the time of the North’s attack, added, “All of our company members fought back bravely to prevent additional provocations. I believe we won.”

Residents of Yeonpyeong also sought to overcome the scars and trauma of the nightmarish provocation two years ago. They built seven evacuation posts and many other temporary shelters. Thirty-two houses were newly built or repaired for victims of the attack to live in. Residential units near the destroyed government office building were kept for use in security awareness education.

“Just as we have to use clubs to defeat hooligans who threaten our lives and property, we have to punish North Korea if it provokes us,” said South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin in a visit to the 3rd Army Command, urging thorough preparedness.

The South Korean military plans to conduct an exercise for localized provocation Saturday to mark the second anniversary of the attack on Yeonpyeong. F-15K fighter jets, airborne early warning and control aircraft, destroyers and others will be used in the exercise, which will involve command post and field training drills. Live fire will not be used, however.

North Korea threatened military action against South Korea over the drills, denouncing Seoul for planning to hold events marking the 2010 attack on Yeonpyeong.

"The commemoration of the so-called victorious battle on Yeonpyeong Island will lead to a second Yeonpyeong Island disaster,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesman of the North Korean military’s Southwestern Front Command as saying. “It is the steadfast will of our service personnel not to miss the opportunity to do this if the warmongers perpetrate another provocation.”