A proper responseNorth Korea and South Korea exchanged fire in the western border area, the first firing since North Korea’s shelling of the border island of Yeonpyeong five years ago, which killed two soldiers and two civilians. North Korea had warned it would fire at loudspeakers when South Korea resumed the blaring of propaganda broadcasts for the first time in 11 years to protest the distribution of land mines in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that maimed two of our soldiers.
Twice on Thursday afternoon, North Korea fired projectiles towards Yeoncheon County, south of the heavily armed border, the first place to start the high-decibel propaganda broadcasts. The shells dropped in fields away from the heavily armed border areas and inflicted no damage to the loudspeakers. North Korea blatantly violated the armistice by firing at South Korea after planting land mines that can only be described as a terrorist act. Not only did it not apologize for the mines, it threatened to embark on military action unless South Korea halts the propaganda broadcast campaign within 48 hours.
North Korea has always been sensitive to psychological warfare through the use of border loudspeakers. South Korea considered resuming the broadcasts after a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean patrol ship with a torpedo in 2010 but played music instead in order not to escalate tensions. But we no longer can exercise such patience after North Korea dared to plant land mines along the southern border line.
Seoul has exercised restraint and said it was still open for dialogue as escalating tensions do little good to either Korea. But Pyongyang went on provoking Seoul by saying it was both framing it for the land mines and insulting it by even thinking it would bother with such a minor attack.
The military, which was criticized for being overly passive at the time of past North Korean attacks, was quick and stern in its latest response. Upon detecting artillery firing from North Korea, the South responded with three dozen rounds of shells about an hour after the North Korean attack. The military quickly evacuated citizens from the borderline towns and President Park Geun-hye immediately convened an emergency National Security Council meeting. We must remain calm and strong at any provocation from North Korea. Experts say the North Korean projectile missed its target and fell in the buffer zone near the DMZ on purpose to test South Korea’s response. The provocation has been strategically calculated as it took place while South Korea and U.S. forces are engaged in joint military drills.
Separately, North Korea’s Kim Yang-gon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party in charge of South Korean affairs, sent a letter saying North Korea deemed the broadcasts a declaration of war but it was still willing to settle the current situation and improve the relationship. Yet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military on the frontline to put itself in a “semi-war state.” If North Korea seriously wants to stop the confrontation, it must show it. It must know that its saber-rattling and provocations do not scare South Korea’s people or its soldiers. It must regain its reason and try to resume cooperation through dialogue. JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 21, Page 30
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