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South Koreans Uncertain on Response to North Korea's Attack on Yeonpyeong Island

South Koreans take a moment of silence for South Korean marines killed in a North Korean bombardment of a South Korean island, 23 Nov 2010
South Koreans take a moment of silence for South Korean marines killed in a North Korean bombardment of a South Korean island, 23 Nov 2010
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Jason Strother

Condemnations of North Korea's bombardment of a South Korean island have come in from around the world. But many South Koreans have mixed feelings over how their government should respond to the incident.

South Korean television continues to show images of plumes of black smoke and damage caused by North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Tuesday.

Skirmishes between the militaries of both Koreas are not uncommon in that part of the Yellow Sea, near a maritime border that Pyongyang does not recognize. But it was the first time in years that civilians were caught in the crossfire. Four people died - two South Korean marines and two civilians.

And that has some South Koreans, like 64-year-old Lee Cheon-gu, very angry.

Lee says the reason North Korea keeps making these provocations is the South Korean government has been too lenient. He says after the sinking of the Cheonan, Seoul was not strong enough to prevent more attacks from the North.  

The Cheonan is a South Korean naval ship that international investigators say was sunk by a North Korean torpedo earlier this year, killing 46 sailors on board. Pyongyang says it had nothing to do with the sinking.

But Lee says he does not want any military retaliation at all. He hopes South Korea will cooperate with neighboring countries and the United Nations to put pressure on North Korea to stop its hostilities.

Other South Koreans do not share Lee's concern about future battles between the two militaries.

Thirty-five-year-old Lee Jin-woo is more concerned about the financial ramifications of Tuesday's attack.

He says he does not think this incident is going to result in war between South and North Korea. Many incidents like this have happened before. He is just worried that it will hurt the economy here and the stock market.  

The South Korean stock exchange and currency both fell after Tuesday's firefight.

Some South Koreans do not believe Seoul's account of what happened.

This young woman who did not want to give her name says she does not trust her government.   

She says she is not so sure that North Korea is really responsible for starting the fires on the island. She describes herself as sympathetic to the northern side and wants to wait for more information before she decide what the truth is.  

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