News / Asia

South Koreans at Rally in Seoul Call for Revenge against North Korea

South Korean protesters in Seoul club an inflatable effigy of North Korea's Kim Il Sung, 27 May 2010
South Korean protesters in Seoul club an inflatable effigy of North Korea's Kim Il Sung, 27 May 2010

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Tensions have been rising over the past month on the Korean peninsula since the sinking of South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan. An international investigation concluded that the coastal patrol warship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. The two Koreas have since responded by cutting most trade and communications links, raising fears the peninsula could be headed towards a return to the devastating warfare of the early 1950's.

At a rally organized in the capital by a South Korean patriots' group, participants vented their anger at the North - and specifically, leader Kim Jong Il.

Thousands of mostly elderly spectators - many of them survivors of the civil war here in the early 1950's - watched as young martial arts experts kicked apart wooden planks - some of them spelling out "North Korea - retaliation."

The speakers on the platform took a harder line than that of their government, calling for revenge for the sinking of the South Korean ship.

It was a message warmly greeted by those in the audience.  

"We have to be stronger," said an elderly woman in uniform. "The measures taken by our government are too  soft. We have to kill all the North Korean aggressors. That is why I attended today's rally."

But many professionals, are cautious about harsher measures or an outbreak of hostilities that would shake investor confidence in South Korea, one of the world's top 15 economies.

"Assuming that North Korea is responsible for the Cheonan incident, then it is appropriate for the government to respond at the level it has," said a young man.

"I fully support the decisions the South Korean government has made," said another man. "We should use all possible sanctions and keep looking for ways to get North Korea to change through international collaboration. But there should not be war."

One thing nearly all South Koreans agree on is the devastating human toll that all-out war would take on the peninsula, recalling -  from direct experience or their education - that one and a half million civilians died during the three-year Korean War.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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