News / Asia

Some South Koreans Optimistic About Talks with Pyongyang

Han Bok-yeo (center) and her two neighbors from Seo-Yeonpyeong Island sit together in their apartment in Gimpo, South Korea
Han Bok-yeo (center) and her two neighbors from Seo-Yeonpyeong Island sit together in their apartment in Gimpo, South Korea

Multimedia

Audio
Jason Strother

Two months ago, North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing four people. Most residents of that island and a neighboring islet have yet to return to their homes, in part for fear of another attack. But the islanders hope that the chance of talks between Seoul and Pyongyang will make it easier to go home.

Post-attack

About 900 Yeonpyeong islanders are staying in government-supplied apartments in the city of Gimpo, northwest of Seoul, and receive monthly stipends.

They fled their homes in November, after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, and neighbor Seo-Yeonpyeong.

Han Bok-yeo, 61, is one of them. Han ran a seafood restaurant on Seo-Yeonpyeong.  She says it was complete chaos when the attack occurred on November 23.

She says she panicked. At first she did not realize it was an attack, she just thought it was normal military drills. But when she realized it was North Korea firing, she and some neighbors fled into the island's mountain.

Han and her neighbors later boarded a fishing boat bound for the closest port on the mainland, Incheon. She has not returned home since.

Back story


North Korea says it launched the artillery barrage in retaliation for South Korean military exercises that fired live shells into its waters.

South Korea denies that it fired toward the North, and says the exercises were routine, and widely publicized in advance.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula rose sharply last year, after a South Korean navy ship exploded and sank, killing 46 sailors. An international investigation team said it was the result of a North Korean torpedo, which Pyongyang denied.

Seoul and the United States ramped up military exercises, including joint naval training near waters that Pyongyang claims are its territory.

Current situation

After the Yeonpyeong shelling, there were fears the situation could escalate sharply. South Korean and American troops were put on heightened alert. Pyongyang issued threats that it would attack again if South Korea and the U.S. carried out joint naval drills. But a second clash never happened and since the start of this year, North Korea has signaled it is ready to talk with the Seoul government.

Seoul has suggested a preliminary meeting on February 11 to discuss arrangements for high-level military talks.

Some security analysts here say Pyongyang's charm offensive is just a means for the cash-strapped government to seek aid from the South.  But Yeonpyeong Island residents are hopeful about the future of talks.

Future aspirations

Lee Seong-bon, 51, a fisherman from Seo-Yeonpyeong Island, is a member of a residents' committee that was formed after the evacuation. He says renewed dialogue could ease the fears of many islanders about returning to their homes.

Lee says he has a positive feeling about the military talks. He says he hopes that the islanders can get assurance that North Korea will not launch any more attacks and make sure that when they go back home, they will be safe.

But, Lee says, Yeonpyeong islanders want both the North and South Korean governments to make new promises to the displaced residents.  

Lee adds that he wants an apology from North Korea over the attack, but he also wants a stronger guarantee from the South Korean government that it will better protect the island's residents.

Seo-Yeonpyeong Island resident Han Bok Yeo is not too concerned about whether the North apologizes for the attack.

Han says she does not know much about the talks, but she just hopes that she can get back to the island soon, whether as a result of the discussions or not.

But Han and the other island residents might not have to wait much longer to return, even if they are not ready. Their government housing and financial support ends February 18.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid