President-Elect Lee Myung Bak will finally honor six South Korean sailors killed in a North Korean attack on their patrol boat on June 29, 2002. The sailors’ surviving family members were embittered, believing that their government and outgoing President Roh Moo Hyun had snubbed them to appease Kim Jong Il. One young widow even left South Korea for good:
Kim Jong-seon, the widow of Petty Officer Han Sang-guk […] turned her back on her homeland Sunday and boarded a flight bound for the United States. Before getting on her flight, she said, “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?” [Chosun Ilbo]
North Korean warships crossed the Koreas’ disputed naval boundary and sank the Chamsuri 457 just one day before the closing ceremony for its successful co-hosting of the World Cup. The attack killed six South Korean sailors and wounded 18 others.
Like the bombing of a South Korean airliner Kim Jong Il personally ordered just before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, it was almost certainly premeditated. Both incidents were designed not just to kill South Korean citizens, but to terrorize the world away from South Korea. (This, of course, is the nation our Secretary of State wants to drop from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.) One survivor describes his pain:
“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.” [Chosun Ilbo]
If Lee keeps his promise, it will come after six years of needless anguish for the survivors and bereaved family members of the Chamsuri 457 crew, but better that this honor should be delayed than denied.
[Photo: Chosun Ilbo]