10 years after Yeonpyeong, drill honors 6 killed

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10 years after Yeonpyeong, drill honors 6 killed


South Korean destroyer Munmu the Great, right, leads vessels during a naval drill in the Yellow Sea that ran from Wednesday to Friday. The two speed boats alongside the Munmu are among the six state-of-the-art speed boats bearing the names of South Korean sailors killed during the Second Yeonpyeong Skirmish 10 years ago.Provided by the Navy

As concerns grow over an additional provocation from North Korea, South Korea conducted a naval drill in the Yellow Sea last week mobilizing six state-of-the-art speed boats bearing the names of the South Korean sailors killed during a deadly inter-Korean naval skirmish 10 years ago, according to the Navy yesterday.

The drill was held to commemorate the upcoming 10th anniversary of the incident, which falls on June 29. The families of the fallen South Korean soldiers were also invited to witness the drill, the Navy said.

The so-called second Yeonpyeong Naval Skirmish that occurred near Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea on June 29, 2002, was triggered by a North Korean patrol ship crossing over the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, into the South.

During the 25-minute-long gunfire exchange between the North Korean patrol ship and the South Korean speed boat Chamsuri 357, four South Korean crew members, including Lt. Cmdr. Yoon Young-ha and three chief petty officers, Jo Cheon-hyung, Seo Hoo-won and Hwang Do-hyun, were killed.

Nineteen others were injured, and one of them, Petty Officer Second Class Park Dong-hyuk, died 22 days later. One solder, Chief Petty Officer Han Sang-guk, went missing during the skirmish, and he was later found dead.

To honor their patriotic deaths, the Navy named the six new patrol boats after them. The six vessels are all equipped with patrol killer guided (PKG) missiles, the Navy said.

The drill was conducted from Wednesday to Friday, and the families of the dead sailors watched the patrol boats in action in the Yellow Sea on Thursday aboard the destroyer Munmu the Great, along with Adm. Choi Yun-hee, the Navy’s chief of staff. The families later floated wreaths on the sea in memory of the soldiers.

Yoon Doo-ho, father of Yoon Young-ha, said that he was proud of the six sailors who are safeguarding South Korean maritime territory even after their deaths, according to the Navy. The drill was carried out on as an assumed scenario that North Korea crossed over the NLL into the South again.

“Our colleagues sacrificed themselves to safeguard the NLL, and all of our soldiers are in full readiness to defend it,” said Lt. Cmdr. Bang Je-tae, captain of the Park Dong-hyuk PKG vessel.

Meanwhile, the Monthly Chosun, a local magazine, reported in its July edition that the North Korean speedboat had sent a special intelligence message to the North two days before the 2002 Yeonpyeong Skirmish that it was ready to attack South Korea upon command.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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