Picture of the Day: ROK Defense Minister Decorates Sailors After Battle with North Korean Ship

The crew of the Chamsuri 325, who fought off a North Korean incursion across the Northern Limit Line, are decorated by the Defense Minister for courage under fire.

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Here is the vessel’s skipper, Lieutenant Kim Sang-Hun:

“I could literally see the shells flying at us. Some skidded off the water and slammed into the side of our boat,” he said, speaking aboard the Chamsuri 325, the very boat that engaged with the North Korean Navy a decade ago. No South Koreans died in the 1999 battle while about two dozen North Koreans were estimated to have been killed. In 2002, the North Korean Navy again opened fire and killed six South Korean sailors near the NLL.

“I kept shouting to my men, ‘stay calm, stay calm,’ through the radio,” Kim said, recounting last month’s skirmish. “How exhilarated I was as I checked the face of each of my men after the gunfight and found none were hurt.”

Kim said he chose to stay on the open bridge along with his junior officer while the battle went on even though it was apparent that the North Koreans were aiming at his orange-colored life vest. “Ducking inside would’ve been demoralizing for my troops,” he said, speaking aboard his boat docked at 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, 70km southwest of Seoul. Twenty-three shells smashed into his boat, many of them on the bridge and the control room, Navy officials said. [Yonhap]

After a few minutes, Lt. Kim’s men found their mark and the North Korean boat burst into flame. There is no word on how many North Korean sailors died that day, but somewhere, loved ones are mourning for them because their officers sent them into battle with inferior weapons simply to demonstrate Kim Jong Il’s belligerent mood.

This is another welcome contrast to the disgrace of the Roh years.

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