Lee promises truth about Cheonan, ‘stern’ response

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Lee promises truth about Cheonan, ‘stern’ response


President Lee Myung-bak weeps after reading the names of 46 fallen sailors in an address yesterday. By Cho Mun-gyu

Addressing the nation on live TV yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak tearfully vowed to fully reveal the cause of the Cheonan’s sinking and to respond “sternly and firmly.”

Lee said he shares both responsibility for the accident and the pain it caused the nation as president and chief commander of the military.

“I promise to the nation, as the president, that the cause of the Cheonan’s sinking will be revealed clearly and thoroughly,” Lee said. “We will sternly and firmly respond to the outcome. I will prevent the recurrence of this tragedy.”

Lee’s biweekly address, which is normally broadcast by radio, was carried live on major TV networks yesterday morning. The Blue House had promised a special message on the Cheonan’s sinking, and Lee wore a black suit and black tie to pay condolences to the fallen sailors and their families.

The president’s pledge for a stern response came at a time of deepening speculation about North Korea’s involvement. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said Sunday that bringing the matter to the United Nations Security Council would be an option if Pyongyang were found responsible.

Lee also vowed to strengthen the country’s military, emphasizing that military might comes not only from hardware and manpower but also strong spirit. “What we need right now is spiritual strength,” he said.

“We need to look back coolheadedly. We must find out what our shortcomings are and correct them,” Lee said.

Lee briefly broke into tears after he read the names of the 46 fallen sailors. “When unification comes and true peace and prosperity are established in this nation, we will remember your sacrifices once again,” he said.

A senior Blue House official said yesterday that the president will issue a special statement to disclose the government’s findings on the Cheonan’s sinking. “When we reach an interim conclusion, the statement will be announced,” said Lee Dong-kwan, Blue House senior public affairs secretary, hinting that the statement will come after the civilian and military investigators complete their initial probe.

It will be the president’s second special statement. The first such statement was released in May 2008 following nationwide protests against the government’s decision to resume imports of U.S. beef.

Lee held a luncheon with his foreign affairs and security advisers yesterday to discuss the Cheonan’s sinking. A meeting with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties is scheduled for today and heads of the Grand National, Democratic and Liberty Forward parties were invited, the Blue House said.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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이창기 원사 … 최한권 상사 … 그대들에게 명령합니다 이제 편히 쉬기를 바랍니다

오전 7시45분부터 8분여간 생중계된 19일 ‘천안함 희생 장병 추모 연설’은 이명박 대통령의 눈물로 범벅이 됐다.

“실종 장병 한 사람 한 사람이 태극기에 덮여 나오는 모습에 국민 모두가 울었다. 가슴이 터지는 듯했다”는 연설 초반부터 이 대통령의 목소리는 떨리고 갈라졌다. 그는 “군 통수권자인 대통령으로서 무한한 책임과 아픔을 통감하면서 살아있을 때 불러보지 못했던 사랑하는 우리 장병들의 이름을 마지막으로 불러본다”며 희생 장병 46명의 이름을 차례로 불렀다. “이창기 원사…최한권 상사…남기훈 상사….”

3분여간의 호명이 끝날 무렵 이 대통령의 눈에선 눈물이 흐르기 시작했다. “여러분 한 사람 한 사람이 관등성명을 대며 우렁차게 복창하는 소리가 들리는 듯하다”, “마지막 순간까지 서로 ‘너만은 살아남으라’고 격려하는 모습이 눈에 보이는 듯하다”, “여러분이 모두 모여 함께 부를 ‘천안함가’가 귀에 쟁쟁하다”는 대목에 이르러 눈물은 이미 주체할 수 없었다. “여러분은 우리에게 모든 것을 맡기고, 편히 쉬기를 바란다. 명령한다”에 이어 “대통령으로서 침몰 원인을 끝까지 낱낱이 밝히겠다”는 대목에서 그는 손수건으로 눈물을 닦았다.

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