‘Heroic warriors’ remembered

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‘Heroic warriors’ remembered


A mother of one of the 46 sailors killed in the deadly sinking of the warship Cheonan on March 26, 2010, cries in front of a relief sculpture of her son that is part of a monument unveiled yesterday on Baengnyeong Island, closest to where the ship sank. [NEWSIS]

A memorial to commemorate the 46 “heroic warriors” killed in the deadly sinking of the Cheonan warship on March 26, 2010, was unveiled yesterday on Baengnyeong Island, the territory closest to where the ship sank.

About 300 military officials and family members attended the ceremony at Yeonhwari Beach.

“This memorial honors the 46 heroic warriors of the Cheonan navy ship who fought to protect the West Sea and died gloriously,” reads an inscription on the memorial, written by Kim Seong-chan, chief of the South Korean Navy. “With this memorial, established to cherish their noble spirit, the warriors will remain in the hearts of South Koreans forever.”

A Seoul-led multinational investigation concluded that a North Korean torpedo hit the warship, which the North has denied.

The government began building the monument on Jan. 4 with an investment of 820 million won ($736,416). Three pyramids, which express the sailors’ will to protect South Korea, meet at the top. In front of the pyramids is a sculpture with the faces of the 46 sailors carved in relief. A flame burns among the sculptures and will never be extinguished.

To mark the first anniversary of the sinking, President Lee Myung-bak attended a memorial service at the National Cemetery in Daejeon on Saturday, which drew about 4,500 people, including government and military officials.

“The sailors, who defended South Korea until they died, are real heroes,” said Park Sung-choon, the minister of patriots and veteran affairs. “South Koreans will remember our warriors and uphold their will.”

“It has been a year since the Cheonan sank,” Lee said to the bereaved families. “I won’t forget the sinking and their sacrifice won’t be in vain.”

Ceremonies were held in other cities as well on Saturday.

About 1,500 high-profile officials and citizens took part in a ceremony in Seoul Plaza, central Seoul, with various musical performances and the screening of video clips.

At Inha Technical College in Incheon, which four of the 46 sailors had attended, professors and students held a ceremony.

Song Young-gil, the mayor of Incheon, visited a mourning alter placed at the Incheon Sea Border Defense Headquarters. Also, a parade was held in the city.

In Busan, about 3,000 members of 80 civic groups participated in a rally at the Busan train station, led by the Busan Patriotic Association. After the rally, members criticized the provocative actions of the North.

The Busan Buddhist Association also held a ceremony at Busan City Hall the same day.

At Jinhae Naval Base, in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, the Navy hung a banner that said: “Don’t forget the 46 warriors” and “Defend our seas.”

The South Korean Navy’s Web site posted messages written by about 10,000 people in remembrance of the sailors.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[중앙일보]
“46용사는 영원히 꺼지지 않는 불꽃”
백령도서 위령탑 제막식
“NLL 수호자로 다시 태어나, 도발 땐 결연한 의지 보일 것”

천안함 폭침으로 희생된 46명의 장병이 27일 ‘영원히 꺼지지 않는 불꽃’이 됐다.

 이날 낮 12시 천안함 1주기를 맞아 천안함 피격 장소가 보이는 백령도 연화리에서 46용사 위령탑 제막식이 열렸다. 영토, 영해, 국민을 상징하는 세 개의 삼각뿔이 8.7m 높이로 솟아 있는 한가운데 46용사의 해군정신을 기리는 가스등의 불꽃도 함께 타올랐다.

 제막식에는 유가족, 생존 장병, 백령도 주민 등 300여 명이 참석했다.

이날 행사에서 46용사의 얼굴과 이름을 새긴 양각 부조 동판이 공개되자 가족들은 동판을 어루만지고 얼굴에 입을 맞추며 참았던 눈물을 흘렸다.

 김성찬 해군참모총장은 추도사에서 “46용사께 ‘오늘 밤이라도 당장 싸울 수 있는 준비가 돼 있다’고 고(告)한다”며 “고인들은 영원히 꺼지지 않는 불멸의 표상이 될 것”이라고 말했다.

이어 고 이용상 하사의 아버지인 이인옥(50) 유가족 대표는 “이제 우리는 아들과 남편, 형제를 각자의 가슴속에 묻고 이들의 조국 수호 의지를 백령도에 영원히 새길 것이다”고 전했다.

 제막식이 끝나자 가족들은 위령탑 뒤쪽의 전망대 앞에서 아들의 이름을 목놓아 부르며 한참 동안 오열했다. 해군에 1억원을 기부했던 고 민평기 상사의 어머니인 윤청자씨가 주저앉아 울자 천안함 함장이었던 최원일 중령이 윤씨를 끌어안으며 위로하기도 했다. 천안함에 승선했었던 김덕원 소령은 “오늘은 46용사가 북방한계선(NLL)의 수호자로 다시 태어나는 날”이라며 “북한이 다시 도발한다면 우리들의 결연한 의지를 보여줄 것”이라고 말했다.
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