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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora