The Island of Yeonpyeong, South Korea, in the Yellow Sea, is west of the mainland peninsula. This Island home of some 1500 residents has been damaged severely by the hour long rain of artillery fire from the angered North on Tuesday. The residents of the island – four dead, 18 injured – have sought refuge away from their homes; reports are that of the 1500, only 30 are left. According to witnesses, about 31 homes are destroyed, and “every building on Yeonpyeong” has been damaged.
To explain the bombardment, at the onset and following the barrages, North Korea blamed the attack on South Korean military drills; the North said a shot was fired onto the northern side of the disputed maritime border. Now Pyongyang has broadened the scope of the charge. South Korea, they accuse, provoked the massive bombardment by a “sinister calculation” on the part of the South, that, were North Korea not to respond to the military exercises, the world would conclude “tacit recognition” of the northern limit line – the border established but not recognized by the North in the 1953 agreement ending the Korean War.
One would expect that the people of South Korea would be reduced now to living in fear of the onset of war. But apparently, this is far from the truth. Instead, the public outcry has been against President Lee Myung-bak for his failure to retaliate with lethal force.The view is that the people of South Korea are angry that their weaknesses are exposed. The South Korean media call Lee Myung-bak “indecisive” and say he “fails to keep the people informed.”
The South Korean Defense Minister, General Kim Tae-young, has resigned, after 14 months of service in which South Korea saw the sinking by the North of the Naval Ship Choenan in the Yellow Sea, in what the South considered open water, as the ship was on site to assure the safety of crab fishermen. Now his service has again been tested by the new barrage to Yeonpyeong Island. The resignation of Kim Tae-young, it is stated, was a result of failing to keep ready forces in an area that has seen repeated military clashes. President Lee Myung-bak appointed Kim Kwan-jin, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as new Defense Minister.
Kim Seung-hwan, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Myungji University, describes the situation in his words: “The government is stuck in a dilemma because it has to take a carefully balanced approach that clearly demonstrates its resolve against North Korea while at the same time prevents a full-blown war on the peninsula.”
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