Picture of the Day: Vice President Pence Visits Cheonan Memorial

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits the Cheonan Memorial at the West Sea Protection Hall, in Pyeongtaek, Korea, Feb. 9, where he was escorted by Mr. Kim, Lok hyun, museum director. Vice President Pence toured the museum, along with Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general U.S. Forces Korea, Combined Forces Command, United Nations Command and Gen. Kim, Byeong Joo, deputy commander, Combined Forces Command, and visited the memorial dedicated to the 46 crewmen from the Cheonan warship who lost their lives in 2010 members who lost their lives. (U.S. Army Photos by Staff Sgt. David Chapman, USFK)

New Movie to Highlight the 2002 West Sea Naval Battle

This month will be the 13 year anniversary of the 2002 West Sea Naval Battle that saw six South Korean sailors murdered by the North Koreans along the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea.  What was probably the most disgraceful about this attack was how the then South Korean government did everything possible to cover up the attack to maintain the illusion of the Sunshine Policy.  Even worse was that the deceased sailors were treated like they were criminals:

west sea battle1

The father said, “My son is buried in the National Cemetery. But I’m going to take my son’s remains to my family burial site in my hometown.” Having watched the situation develop, he thought his son who was killed by North Korean soldiers was considered nothing more than a criminal.

Some parents said that they are more scared of people who consider the U.S. a bigger enemy than North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who killed their son. We lose courage to defend the country, when we hear that a wife whose husband fell in the battle is preparing to leave this country. Reading a condolence letter from the USFK commander to mark the second anniversary, the wife said, “The Americans remember my husband and his brothers-in-arms better than Koreans… Frankly, I hate Korea.”  [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more about this attack at the below link:

However, times have changed and now with Sunshine Policy exposed for the fraud that it was the Korean movie industry is releasing a movie this month heroically depicting the ROK sailors that fought in the 2002 West Sea Battle:

The forgotten sacrifices made by young South Korean sailors during a bloody naval clash with North Korea 13 years ago will be portrayed on the silver screen in a new film funded partly by citizens.

The movie titled “Battle of Yeonpyeong,” to be released next week, is based on the naval skirmish between the two Koreas on June 29, 2002, in waters off the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong in the Yellow Sea.
Six sailors were killed and 18 others were injured after a fierce exchange of fire, which was sparked when two North Korean patrol boats infiltrated the maritime border.

The occasion, which is known to also have caused some 30 casualties in the North, is called the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong, with the first battle taking place in 1999.  “I’ve wanted to depict the ironic situation where the young sailors, who are someone’s beloved sons, fathers, and friends, were killed on one side, while others were overwhelmed by the 2002 World Cup,” Kim Hak-soon, director of the film, said Wednesday ahead of a press preview.  [Korea Observer]

You can read the rest of the article at the link, but I look forward to watching this movie.

North Korea Reportedly Threatens ROK Marines on Baengnyeong Island

Here is another indication of an impending provocation cycle from the North Koreans:

Blue: UN declared western sea boundary
Red: North Korea’s declared western sea boundary
1–Yeonpyeong Island
2–Baengnyeong Island
3–Daecheong Island

Thousands of North Korean propaganda leaflets fell yesterday on a frontline South Korean island, warning of an attack on soldiers stationed there, a report said. A South Korean marine unit based on Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea had collected the leaflets which were carried across the border, Yonhap news agency said. The South’s military declined to confirm the report.

The leaflets carried threats of bombings, describing the marines as the first target to be wiped out.
The North also warned in the leaflets that its troops were always ready to strike the island with their “unprecedented” fire power and turn it into “a large graveyard”, Yonhap said.  [The Daily Star]

DMZ Flashpoints: The 2002 West Sea Naval Battle

10 years ago, the 2002 West Sea Naval Battle, also known as the 2nd Battle of Yeonpyeong took place which at the time was an event that clearly showed the contradictions within South Korean society in regards to their perceptions of North Korea and the United States.  Before getting into the political and social aspects of this battle, first let me recap what happened.

Replica of ROK Chamsuri 357 that fought in the 2nd Battle of Yeonpyeong.

On June 29, 2002, one day before the closing ceremony of the World Cup being held in Korea that year, the North Koreans likely tried to draw attention from away from all the glory South Korea had been receiving from their amazing World Cup performance that year by prevoking a naval battle in the West Sea.  They did this by sending a patrol boat, the Yukto 388 across the disputed Northern Limit Line that demarcates the border between North and South Korea along the Yellow Sea.  The ship crossed near Yeonpyeong Island which is the same island that the North Koreans launched an artillery attack against in 2010 that killed two ROK Marines as well as two civilians.

A South Korean naval vessel the Chamsuri 357 was sent to escort the North Korean ship back into North Korean waters shortly before 10 AM that day.  A 2nd North Korean ship the Tungsangot 684 then crossed the NLL as well.  Both North Koreans ship crossed 3-5 kilometers south of the NLL before being intercepted by the Chamsuri 357.  Since a 2nd North Korean ship was spotted the Chamsuri 358 was dispatched to help as well.   The two South Korean ships intercepted the North Korean ships and issued three warnings by radio to return across the NLL.

That is when the North Korean ship the Tungsangot began to open fire with its 85mm gun at about 450 meters away causing severe damage to the South Korean Chamsuri 357.  In this initial attack five sailors on the Chamsuri 357 were killed to include the captain Lieutenant Yun Yong-ha.  Despite heavy damage the crew of the Chamsuri 357 fired back and the Chamsuri 358 began to open fire as well on the two North Korean ships.  As additional ROK Navy ships began to respond to the attack both North Korean ships retreated back across the NLL where the Tungsangot was seen burning heavily.  The battle was over before 11:00 AM when ROK Naval authorities decided not to pursue the North Korean ships across the NLL in order to avoid escalating the conflict. The clash ultimately ended up costing the lives of six South Korean sailors with 18 more wounded.

It is believed that the North Koreans suffered 13 deaths and 25 wounded, but their two ships were both able to limp back into harbor while the Chamsuri would eventually sink while being towed away from the NLL.  North Korean defectors would later provide details about the aftermath of the battle.  In September of 2002 the gunner of the 85mm gun that made the deadly hit against the Chamsuri 357 was honored by the North Korean authorities as a “Hero of the Republic”.  The North Korean sailor named Seo Ju Cheol was then allowed to visit his hometown where a big celebration was given in his honor.

There was also celebrating in South Korea after the battle as well, but it wasn’t for the sailors that bravely fought off the North Korean provocation.  Instead the country largely ignored the battle in its euphoria of not only hosting a widely successful World Cup, but the fact that the South Korean team reached the tournament’s semi-finals sending nationalism in the country to an all-time high.  In fact the ROK sailors would receive little recognition at all by the South Korean government.  The Kim Dae-jung government at the time wanted to minimize what happened and keep the grieving families quiet because they did not want to upset their Sunshine Policy with North Korea, especially in a presidential election year in the ROK.  Interestingly many of these same ROK politicians were busy encouraging or doing nothing about the anti-Americanism in the aftermath of the US Army Armored Vehicle Accident that tragically killed two South Korean teenagers two weeks before the naval clash.   So basically the Korean government turned a blind eye to the premeditated murder of six ROK sailors while actively encouraging anti-Americanism against their long-time ally because of a tragic traffic accident.

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In commemoration of the second anniversary of the West Sea naval battle, memorial services were held at the headquarters of the Navy’s 2nd Fleet in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday. Hwang Eun-tae, father of the late Petty Officer First Class Hwang Do-hyun, weeps while reading a letter in front of his son’s portrait.

Even more heartless was the the fact that the South Korean government sent no flag officers to attend a memorial ceremony or the President even offer any condolences to the families after the attack. USFK however did send representatives to the ceremony and USFK Commander General LaPorte offered the families his condolences.  The memorial service was held on a ROK Navy base in order to minimize media access and prevent anti-North Korean activist groups from attending the memorial. One wife of a deceased sailor was so fed up with how the Korean government treated her, that she left Korea and went to the United States. This is what she said before boarding the plane:

“If the indifference and inhospitality shown to those soldiers who were killed or wounded protecting the nation continue, what soldier will lay down his life in the battlefield?”

Here’s a quote from one of the fathers of one of the murdered sailors that really struck a cord with me:

The father said, “My son is buried in the National Cemetery. But I’m going to take my son’s remains to my family burial site in my hometown.” Having watched the situation develop, he thought his son who was killed by North Korean soldiers was considered nothing more than a criminal.

Some parents said that they are more scared of people who consider the U.S. a bigger enemy than North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who killed their son. We lose courage to defend the country, when we hear that a wife whose husband fell in the battle is preparing to leave this country. Reading a condolence letter from the USFK commander to mark the second anniversary, the wife said, “The Americans remember my husband and his brothers-in-arms better than Koreans… Frankly, I hate Korea.”  [Chosun Ilbo]

“Frankly, I hate Korea”, no those are not the words of a disgruntled American expat or GI saying that, that is a Korean woman who was so outraged by the actions of the Korean government that she left the country.  She is not alone in her criticism of the Korean government over what happened in 2002.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper published a series of interviews from some of the sailors injured in the 2002 attack and here are excerpts of what they had to say:

Another naval gunner, Kim Taek-jung, 25, has given up his dream of becoming a civil engineer and is preparing for the civil service exam instead. “Because civil engineering requires active work at the site, I’ve made a realistic decision to become a public servant, I still have four or five pieces of shrapnel in my body,” Kim said. “One night I remembered the faces of my six dead comrades, but I couldn’t recall the name of one of them, so I sobbed all night.”

Although they suffer from sleepless nights and nightmares, those without external injuries are not entitled to benefits as “persons of merit.” Ko Kyug-rak, 25, also a naval gunner, said, “For over a year after the incident I was unable to sleep more than three hours a night.” Aboard the patrol boat that turned into a sea of flame, Ko saw his peers burned and their heads blown away and lost some of his hearing. But when he went to a military hospital to claim benefit, Ko was given cool treatment. “A doctor ignored the psychological problems and only asked me to show any external wounds,” he said. “If benefits for persons of merit are granted for this level of injuries, the doctor said, it would have an adverse effect on the state budget.”

Another wounded veteran, Kim Myun-joo, 26, has applied for meritorious benefit twice, but in vain. “I’m just sad because I feel like that post-traumatic stress disorder and efforts to safeguard the country are being neglected,” he said

Of the six victims this paper interviewed, three have office jobs and three are students, all trying hard to make a future for themselves despite the difficulties. What they want from the country is just one thing: that it remembers that many young people were killed or wounded while safeguarding the country on June 29, 2002. “I just wish they remembered the battle once a year, even if they don’t pay much attention. Nothing else,” said Lee Jae-yong, 25.

President Roh did not attend a memorial ceremony for the murdered sailors and the memorial services in later years were attended largely by ROK Navy and USFK leaders. The South Korean ruling party failure to honor these brave sailors was only a further example of the failure of the Sunshine Policy. The South Korean government gave massive amounts of aid to North Korea and they murder South Korean sailors, fire a tactical ballistic missiles, and test nuclear weapons among of host of other provocations. Probably the worst example of North Korean appeasement is how the South Korean political left ignored the plight of hundreds of South Korean citizens that had been abducted by North Korean commandos and agents over the years.  A South Korean wife of one of the abductees had to mount her own personal rescue operation to free her husband from enslavement in North Korea while the South Korean government did nothing to assist her.  So the 2nd Battle of Yeonpyeong was just one of many incidents in a long line of appeasement of North Korea.  In the ensuing years the South Korean government under left wing President Roh Moo-hyun would send North Korea a record of over one billion dollars in aid which is more than they pay to help fund the US-ROK alliance.

Fortunately once President Lee Myung-bak was elected to office he ended the outrage committed against the families of the deceased sailors and began a policy of properly honoring the veterans from West Sea Naval Battle.  In fact a replica of the Chamsuri 357 now sits at the War Memorial in Yongsan where children visit it to learn about the West Sea Naval Battle.

In fact the change in attitude under the Lee Myung-bak government caused the wife of the deceased ROK sailor to return home from the US:

The widow of Petty Officer Han Sang-guk, who was killed in a June 2002 naval battle with North Korea near Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea, will return to her mother country in April three years after her departure to the U.S. Kim Jong-seon left the country in April 2005 due to disappointment that the government ignored those killed in the battle. Kim told the Chosun Ilbo on Monday she is winding up her life in the U.S. and booked a flight leaving for South Korea on April 1.

Kim had said until last year she would not return to South Korea although she missed her family, since the nation seemed to pay inappropriate respect to the young soldiers who sacrificed their lives for it. Now she has changed her mind, motivated by reports that president-elect Lee Myung-bak’s Transition Team and the Defense Ministry decided to upgrade the memorial service for the victims of the West Sea Battle to a state event.   [Chosun Ilbo]

In addition to honoring the sailors killed in the 2nd Batlle of Yeonpyeong, the Lee administration also drastically cut aid to the North Koreans.  The North Koreans would respond by not only launching the artillery attack against Yeonpyeong Island, but also sinking the ROK Naval vessel the Cheonan that resulted in the deaths of 46 ROK sailors.  However, unlike the brave sailors of the 2nd Battle of Yeonpyeong these sailors were not forgotten and continue to be honored by the ROK government for their service to the nation.  Hopefully it never happens again that any ROK servicemember who gives their life for their nation should ever be forgotten and their families treated like criminals by the government they were serving to protect.  Considering all the provocations in recent years along the North Limit Line there will undoubtedly be more ROK servicemembers murdered by the North Korean regime which shows that today there isn’t a bigger DMZ Flashpoint than the Northern Limit Line.

Note: You can read more DMZ Flashpoints articles at the below link: