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President Yoon vows to remember 55 West Sea heroes

Posted March. 25, 2023 08:00,   

Updated March. 25, 2023 08:00


"I would like to honor the 55 great heroes who dreamed of protecting the nation and its people by calling out their names."

"President Yoon Suk Yeol visited a memorial ceremony on Friday at the national cemetery in Daejeon to mark West Sea Defense Day. During the ceremony, he called out the names of the 55 service members who lost their lives in the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong in 2002, the sinking of the Cheonan warship in 2010, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. It was the first time an incumbent president had read out the names one by one. As President Yoon read the roll call of the fallen service members, he fought back tears for some 26 seconds, hiding his nose and mouth with his hands while keeping his head down. First Lady Kim Keon Hee also brushed away tears while the names were being read. President Yoon said, “Together with our people, I will forever remember the great heroes who defended the freedom of the Republic of Korea in the name of the nation.”

President Yoon vowed to make North Korea pay for its reckless provocations. He stated, “Our Navy and Marines have defended the Northern Limit Line (NLL) and our territories with their blood from numerous armed provocations by North Korea, including the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong, the sinking of the Cheonan warship, the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, and the Battle of Daecheong.” This was the first time President Yoon pointed out North Korea as responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan warship.

“In response to North Korea's nuclear and missile advancements and provocations, our government and military will significantly reinforce the South Korean three-axis system,” the president said. Throughout his speech that day, President Yoon emphasized the North's provocations, using the term six times.

This starkly contrasts former President Moon Jae-in, who participated in the memorial ceremonies of West Sea Defense Day in 2020 and 2021 but did not explicitly state that North Korea was responsible for the provocations. In 2020, Moon was questioned by Ms. Yoon Cheong-ja, the mother of Min Pyeong-gi, the late senior chief petty officer, about who caused the sinking of the Cheonan corvette.

Ms. Yoon stated during a phone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo that the President's speech made her feel as if a heavy burden had been lifted from her chest. “President Yoon also told me to take care of my health, which was very comforting,” she said.

“I felt taken care of during the ceremony," said Jeon Jun-young, the leader of the Veterans Association for survivors of the Cheonan sinking. "Unlike the previous administration that placed me in a corner, this time I was near the president, and even the smallest details were taken care of.”

Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com · Joo-Young Jeon aimhigh@donga.com