중앙데일리

Sea border comments draw fire from brass

Aug 17,2007
With an inter-Korean summit less than two weeks away, Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung is stirring controversy in military circles with remarks some interpret as calling for a rethinking of the Northern Limit Line that currently serves as a maritime border between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea.
Yesterday Lee told a special National Assembly committee on reunification that South Korea should “reconsider” a deadly sea battle with North Korea in 2002 that involved the defense of the line.
“Regarding the Yellow Sea battle, we need to reconsider the way it was conducted,” Lee said, prompting worries from some military officers.
“The Northern Limit Line is the same as the military demarcation line,” said a senior officer, who declined to be named. “We have to protect it.”
By raising the question at this time, the officer said, Lee might weaken the resolve of the military to defend the country’s sea border.
The brief sea battle occurred on June 29, 2002 when two North Korean patrol boats crossed the Northern Limit Line and one opened fire on a South Korean vessel killing six sailors and sinking the ship.
The attack was thought to be retaliation for a 1999 sea clash in which the two navies engaged in a battle that resulted in an estimated 30 North Korean fatalities.
“I don’t know what he is thinking,” said a senior official in the Defense Ministry regarding Lee’s remarks. “We defended our territory and lost lives.”
The controversy began last week when Lee told lawmakers that the Northern Limit Line is not part of a concept that comes under “territory.”
The line between the two Koreas in the Yellow Sea was established by General Mark Clark, the UN commander, at the end of the Korean War.
Until the 1970s, North Korea accepted the sea border but since then it has argued that it did not consent to the drawing of the line. The North has frequently ignored the line and sailed into South Korea waters.
Officially, the South Korean Defense Ministry regards the sea border as “an effective means of preventing military tension between North and South Korean military forces.” The line, the ministry says, “serves as a practical demarcation line, which has contributed to the separation of forces.”
The armistice that ended the Korean War does not include the Limit Line because the North and the United Nations did not reach an agreement on the document.


by Brian Lee Staff Writerafricanu@joongang.co.kr



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