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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More