In aftermath of attack, families reeling in shock
While the country mourned the loss of two young marines killed during North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island, the bodies of two civilians who also died in the attack arrived at Incheon port yesterday.
The families of the two civilians - Bae Bok-cheol, 59, and Kim Chi-baek, 60 - left Incheon at 10:20 a.m. yesterday to identify the bodies on the island. The families have been making funeral arrangements while struggling with their loss.
“Kim was such a family man, a good father and very diligent person,” said Hwang Dong-ju, a cousin of Kim.
Kim’s wife, Kang Seong-ae, collapsed in shock when she arrived at the mourning altar.
“Kim said he went to the island to earn money to buy a new house next month,” Kang said. “He had a tough life raising children .?.?. what a misery it is.”
Bae’s two daughters also burst into tears.
“I still can’t believe my father died,” one daughter said. “He was such a good man. Why do good and innocent citizens such as him always have to die in this kind of incident.”
The two civilians were employed by a construction company that was building a residence for marines on the island. The workers had been living in temporary housing on the island since June 2009.
The families complained yesterday that the government has been slow in helping them make funeral arrangements, with all eyes instead focused on the two marines.
“Their bodies were not moved to the mainland until we called Incheon City Hall and inquired about them,” said Yun Jong-guk, a cousin of Bae. “It is nonsense to ask bereaved families to come to the island to check on the bodies.”
One of Kim’s family members added, “I requested a boat from [the government] but got no answers. I did not even know Kim was dead until the media reported their names.”
In the meantime, the families of the two marines - Suh Jeong-woo and Moon Gwang-wook - finally agreed to hold a funeral Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Armed Forces Capital Hospital in Suwon, Gyeonggi, after the Marine Corps gave them details about the deaths on Wednesday.
“Suh was hit on his way to an air raid shelter by an exploding shell,” said Kim Tae-eun, a marine official. Suh had only 300 meters (1,000 feet) left to reach the shelter, Kim added.
According to the marines, shrapnel flying from a shell falling nearby struck Moon’s chest. Moon received CPR at the hospital, but couldn’t be revived. Kim said both marines died from severe blood loss.
As to concerns over Suh’s missing leg, Kim said Suh’s leg was found near where he died. The families, who had rejected holding a memorial ceremony before they got an exact account of how the two marines died, decided to go forward with the memorial.
“We agreed to believe what the marines promised us - to do their best investigating the deaths - and decided to go ahead with the funeral,” a family spokesman said late Tuesday.
After the funeral ceremony, the families will ride in a helicopter flyby of the island to see the damage for themselves. The marines will be buried at the National Cemetery in Daejeon.
Several high-ranking government officials paid their respects to the marines at the mourning altar in the Armed Forces Capital Hospital.
Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, visited the incense altar yesterday and expressed her condolences.
“I will do my best to tighten national security to prevent further incidents like this,” Park said.
Representatives of the families of sailors who died in the Cheonan sinking also went to the mourning altar.
Former President Kim Young-sam and former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama also visited the altar.
Hatoyama said: “I express my condolences to the two marines on behalf of all Japanese. Japan will support all of Korea’s measures and actions.”
By Kim Hee-jin [email@example.com]