Honor fishermen’s sacrificeMore than 100 private fishing boats rushed to the waters near Baengnyeong Island to join a frantic military search for sailors missing from a Navy vessel that went down on March 26.
They roamed the waters near the disputed sea border with North Korea for signs of life or wreckage from the ill-fated Cheonan corvette, which sank with 46 sailors missing.
They kept to the outskirts of the area lest they get in the way of the military and maritime police rescue campaign. They got not a penny for their service.
One of them was the fishing boat Kumyang 98, which sank after apparently colliding with a Cambodian freighter last Friday.
The bodies of two fishermen were recovered but the other seven crew members remain missing.
They sacrificed their lives for an unpaid mission. Answering willingly the military request for help, they raked through the sea floors until their nets ripped apart.
That makes the tragedy of the Kumyang even more crushing and sad.
Without those fishermen’s service, the military could not have rescued 58 sailors from the 104-man Cheonan when it sank after a mysterious explosion in the dark.
Again, it was a fishing boat that plucked two sailors from the freezing murky waters after the vessel went down.
The rear of the patrol boat was also discovered with the help of a 17-year-old fishing boat, the Hyedeok. The seven-ton fishing boat hit upon the rear part with a detection device its owner bought four years ago with 2.5 million won, and notified the Navy of the spot.
These are all heroic and selfless deeds stemming from the sincere humane desire to help save the lives of the young sailors.
These fishermen put their livelihoods on hold and rode against hide tides to assist naval forces in their desperate salvage.
It is disheartening to see a picture of the haggard and rusted Kumyang in the newspaper. The fishermen - all presumed dead - spent 10 months a year on the sea to earn a hard living for their families.
Yet few mourners visit the hospitals where their cold bodies are laid. Their compensation also remains under dispute.
Yet this is one area where we cannot speak of saving money.
The government must pay due and full respect to the citizens who gave up their lives to assist a military search.
Paying for the sacrificed lives will be the only salvation and comfort possible to our heavy hearts, broken by the naval disaster.