News / Asia

Frontier Island Residents Fear Another N. Korean Attack

 Kim Yoo-sung, 84, at the gate of his home that was severely damaged by the North Korean artillery attack. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
Kim Yoo-sung, 84, at the gate of his home that was severely damaged by the North Korean artillery attack. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea — It has been 19 months since North Korea shelled a frontier island, killing four South Koreans. Residents say they are concerned they could soon face another artillery attack.

Rhetoric from North Korea's new, young leader has many people on Yeonpyeong Island more nervous than usual.

Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un visited the North Korean artillery unit responsible for shelling Yeonpyeong less than two years ago. He praised them as "heroic defenders" and told them not to miss another "golden chance" to retaliate if a single shell again falls in the nearby waters.

  • Community center president Kang Myung-sung hopes to obtain more central government support to turn the damaged structures into a tourism site. (Photo: VOA/Steve Herman)
  • Kim Yoo-sung, 84, at the gate of his home that was severely damaged by the North Korean artillery attack. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • Several buildings damaged by the Nov. 23, 2010 are being left in that condition. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • A military bunker damaged by the Nov. 23, 2010 shelling. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • A preserved slab from a destroyed warehouse showing the damage close-up from the impact of an artillery shell that traveled 12 km. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • A stack of damaged plates still sits on a pillar in one of the buildings shelled by North Korea. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • A plant grows inside a hole in a coastal wall made by a North Korean artillery shell. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • A South Korean army CH-47 Chinook helicopter after landing at military base on Yeonpyeong island. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • A truck loaded with South Korean marines on Yeonpyeong. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • South Korean marines posted on Yeonpyeong pose for a group photograph. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • An observation point facing North Korea, 12 km. away, which can be seen on clear days. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)
  • Artists drawing of a museum under construction on Yeonpyeong dedicated to the Nov. 23, 2010 artillery attack. (Photo: VOA / Steve Herman)


Kim Yoo-sung, 84, a native of the island just 12 kilometers from the North Korean coast, is wondering if he will find himself being attacked by the enemy for the third time in his life.

He was wounded during his navy service in the Korean War of the early 1950s, and in 2010 he found himself again under attack from the North Koreans when the shelling destroyed much of his house.

Kim says concern about another attack is constantly on the minds of everyone on the island.  People here do not sleep well, he says. Every noise in the night has them frightened that they are being shelled again.

Kim expressed his worries in front of his house, where rebuilding is nearly complete.

Nearby, other destroyed homes are being left as they are. They have turned into a bit of a tourist attraction, and the locals do not mind that at all.


Community Center President Kang Myung-sung is optimistic the frames and rubble of several adjacent buildings can serve as a reminder for future generations what happened on this seven-square-kilometer island in November, 2010.

Kang says just as in Hiroshima, Japan, where they have kept several damaged buildings from the first atomic bombing, the islanders want people to come here and see the results of the artillery attack.  But he laments there has not been much support from the central government for the idea to surround the destruction with memorial gardens, another idea the local people have derived from Hiroshima.

North Korea says it was provoked on November 23, 2010 by a South Korean military exercise that lobbed shells into disputed waters.

Annual joint drills on the peninsula between U.S. and South Korean militaries are currently underway.

North Korean leader Kim has called the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise a grave provocation that risks triggering an all-out war and his troops are waiting for a final order to charge for a life-and-death battle against the enemies.

North Korean state media said the order has already been signed and if delivered to the troops Kim has personally told them to turn the west sea (Yellow Sea) into a graveyard of the invaders.

While such belligerent rhetoric is common from Pyongyang, some analysts say the young new leader is likely to invoke a clash to burnish his credentials as North Korea's untested commander-in-chief.

Future prospects

Speaking to correspondents Tuesday at the National Intelligence Service in Seoul, security researcher Ko Young Hwan, a former North Korean diplomat who defected, predicted Pyongyang will conduct a military strike, such as the shelling of another submarine or attempt to land on one of the South Korean-held frontier islands.

Tensions between the two Koreas soared to their highest level in decades in 2010. The South blamed the North for torpedoing and sinking one of its coastal warships in March of that year.

Eight months later it bombarded Yeonpyeong island for two hours, killing four people and wounding 18 others.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 29, 2012 2:43 PM
A one time president of the United States once said, "If you want peace prepare for war". This is what North Korean is doing, but it seems that posture fails them. However, North Korea has been given disproportionate amount of respect for its stupidity. In fact it has taken madness far beyond acceptable limits. What remains now is to respond to that quest. A country of about 17m people cannot hold the whole world to ransom because it boasts of a large army. It has a nuclear armory, so what? Can't it be taken out? Is there no counter military measure that can deny it the use of the nuke in the event of a war? What constitutes a super power? if no one is there to quieten N. Korea so that the world can have peace, then let's crown it with that honor. Negotiations with N. Korea have gone on for too long and have achieved nothing, and it has been the backbone of Tehran to dare the civilized world with threat of nuclear program. Something drastic should be done to quieten NK immediately. It's time to prepare for war with North Korea and give it what it wants, either way, otherwise the threat will remain. Man dies but once, and North Korea cannot kill more they it can. What that country needs is re-engineering and redirecting, and only a defeat at war will liberate the people entrapped in that encampment of evil.
In Response

by: words are like dust from: US
August 29, 2012 9:31 PM
If there is in fact another war then are you willing to risk your life fighting against the North Korean regime, you talk the talk do you walk the walk?
Only those who have taste war and seen death understand the nature and of man.

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