North Korea fired more than 100 shots with its coastline artillery and howitzer guns at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in a brutal attack. Two South Korean Marines were killed and 13 other soldiers were injured. Dozens of cannon shells fell onto a village, injuring three residents. South Korean forces immediately fired back with more than 80 shells from K-9 self-propelled guns and warned against additional aggression. The North, however, conducted two more artillery attacks for about an hour. The Kim Jong Il government is apparently staging indiscriminate attacks even at South Korean civilians in demonstrating its merciless belligerence.
Soon after the attack, dark smoke emerged at many spots around villages and mountainous areas of Yeonpyeong. Residents rushed to shelters to escape after broadcast notices warned that the situation is real. Judging that inland areas would be more dangerous, certain residents took boats and escaped to the sea. As the sound of gun firing prevailed on the island, homes and glass were shattered and power was shut off. The situation was like a state of war. Bombarding residential areas not only constitutes a violation of the 1953 armistice but also a war crime.
The Norths attack was apparently launched at the instruction of Kim Jong Il. South Korea must single him out as the culprit and hold him accountable. Seoul can hardly afford to negotiate with Pyongyang after it bombarded residential areas. The North attacked Yeonpyeong after unveiling new uranium enrichment facilities to an American nuclear expert as recently as two weeks ago. Pyongyang obviously and thoroughly planned and prepared to launch Tuesday`s attack.
The North staged the aggression by protesting the joint Patriotic Drill conducted by the South Korean armed forces from Monday. South Korea simply carried out artillery exercises in its waters west of Baengnyeong Island and south of Yeonpyeong inbetween the two islands Tuesday morning. Having tried to find an opportunity to blame the South, the North launched the attack.
This incident has demonstrated yet again how dangerous and meaningless dialogue and negotiations are in trying to change Pyongyang. South Koreans need to be vigilant against Kim Jong Il, the successor to the late Kim Il Sung who started the Korean War in 1950 against his fellow Korean people, since Kim Jong Il could launch a full-scale war anytime. Seoul, its military and citizens should be clearly aware that negligence or lack of vigilance will invite aggression from Pyongyang and that a proper response is needed.
After announcing its new uranium enrichment facilities, the North struck Yeonpyeong by complaining about an annual routine drill by the South. After granting Kim Jong Ils third son Jong Un the post of major general and seeking to transfer power to the third generation of the ruling Kim family, the North has committed a string of provocations to show the North Korean people a powerful image of the heir apparent and legitimize Pyongyang`s own belligerence. As such, South Koreans need to raise their level of vigilance all the more.
The artillery attack has created a grave situation as serious as the March sinking of the South Korean naval boat Cheonan. If the South Korean government and military show a passive and lenient stance again, the North will continue to stage military provocations big or small. President Lee Myung-baks initial response of Manage the situation well to prevent the attack from spreading (into war) is similar to Seouls passive reaction following the Cheonan sinking. Immediately after the sinking, President Lee said, Please don`t make a hasty conclusion about the cause of the sinking. He also warned that if the North attacks again, the South will directly strike the Norths military base. If Seoul shows no sign of making a decisive counterattack and finds itself complacent with dozens of gun shells, the North will ridicule the South all over again.
The past liberal governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun in the South created bad precedents by backing off and compensating the North when the latter launched provocations. The incumbent Lee administration has also failed to decisively counter Pyongyang`s aggression. The North killed 46 South Korean sailors in the Cheonan sinking but the South failed to retaliate. When the North fired in January more than 400 shells with coastline artillery guns toward the Northern Limit Line near Baengnyeong Island, the South Korean military pledged to counter if and when the North violated the border but this proved to be a blank pledge. When the North fired more than 10 coastline gun shells 1-2 kilometers in waters to the south of the line, the South did not counter.
Had Seoul shown a strong commitment to retaliate by launching a powerful counterattack, the situation would have been different. An old saying has it that if one wants peace, one must prepare for war. As the North has gone beyond the tipping point in committing aggression, the South has no choice but to correct this misdeed through a powerful counterattack.
Since Pyongyang could stage additional strikes, Seoul and its military need to make an extraordinary commitment. The South should also immediately assure the safety of the more than 700 South Korean staff stationed at the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex in the North. The South Korean public should also form a united front and extend their full support for the government and military. The Republic of Korea must safeguard its own safety. If public opinion is divided due to internal confusion, this will only benefit the Kim Jong Il government.