North recognizes death in sea clash with South

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North recognizes death in sea clash with South

North Korea honored a sailor last month who died during a skirmish between the North and South last Nov. 10 at the Northern Limit Line, the maritime border between the two Koreas.

In doing so, the North, for the first time, recognized a casualty of maritime clashes between the two countries. Until last month, the North has never officially disclosed details from these clashes with the South Korean Navy, especially during skirmishes in June 1999 and June 2002.

A year ago, a North Korean patrol boat entered South Korean waters across the Northern Limit Line, and after several warning shots by the South, the two navies exchanged fire. Local reports said the North Korean ship was “partially destroyed and returned to where it had come from.”

The South Korean Navy did not sustain any casualties, but according to the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun, the North’s Navy did.

Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s most widely read newspaper, said on Oct. 16 that Kim Ju-hyok, the sailor who died in the Battle of Daecheong, was honored at a ceremony at the junior high school he once attended, which was renamed Kim Ju-hyok Middle School.

“Last November, he fought with courage in a battle against enemy ships that had crawled into our waters and gave his life bravely,” said the paper, confirming that Kim died in the skirmish.

In the article, the North Korean government called Kim a “hero of the republic” and also displayed a picture of a statue of the deceased sailor.

“A death in combat by an average sailor will now live forever as a hero of the republic that his country and people will love, along with his alma mater,” said Rodong Sinmun.

A South Korean government official who asked to remain anonymous said that as the report announced the casualty, “North Korea announced that the Daecheong Battle was a victory and emphasized the ‘military first’ ideology of Kim Jong-il.”

Last year’s military clash was assumed by some to have been the reason the North carried out an attack on South Korea’s warship, Cheonan, in March, which resulted in 46 South Korean deaths.

By Lee Young-jong, Christine Kim []
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