News / Asia

Yeonpyeong Island Residents Fear Another N. Korean Strike

A bombed out house island of Yeonpyeong that was struck by North Korean artillery, 30 Nov 2010
A bombed out house island of Yeonpyeong that was struck by North Korean artillery, 30 Nov 2010
Jason Strother

Days after a North Korean artillery barrage killed four people on Yeonpyeong island, only a few residents remain.

Authorities hurried everyone on the island into bomb shelters. Sounds of artillery explosions had been heard in the distance. The South Korean military reported that a North Korean base just 12 kilometers across the sea placed surface-to-surface missiles on the launch pad.

Residents feared a repeat of North Korea's artillery attack on the island on November 23.

But after a half hour, authorities said the coast was clear and residents could return to their homes.

Ghost town

Only about 30 of Yeonpyeong's 1,500 inhabitants remain. Most evacuated to Incheon, a two-hour ferry ride away.

The community is a ghost town, homes abandoned and shops closed.

The frequent sound of military helicopters flying overhead is a reminder that Yeonpyeong is on the frontline of the Cold War's last battleground.

Why some stay

Choi Cheol-young, district director for Yeonpyeong, said those who remained did so either because they do not have enough resources or are too old to travel on the boat to the mainland.

Choi said they do not encourage anyone to leave the island and go to Incheon. And if they stay, they support them administratively and also provide them with food.

Controlled access

The South Korean military now controls who has access to the island, and has the authority to order residents off Yeonpyeong if they fear another attack is eminent.

Judging by the devastation from North Korea's bombardment, it is clear why officials are taking no chances with the safety of citizens.

A resident's story

In one neighborhood struck by the shelling, glass is everywhere. Several houses have collapsed, others have been gutted by fire.

Ahn Gwang-hun, a 50-year resident of Yeonpyeong, who stayed behind after the attacks
Ahn Gwang-hun, a 50-year resident of Yeonpyeong, who stayed behind after the attacks

But just one block away from this wreckage is the home of Ahn Gwang-hun. The 50-year resident witnessed the attack.

Ahn said they were making kimchi when the attack happened. But they are not ready to leave the island, there are still many things they need to do here.

Ahn, like most other residents, is a fisherman. But the military has banned civilian boats from going to sea. So Ahn and others still here do what they can to pass the time. Some residents give free rides to visiting journalists, others repair the damage to their homes.

Help for homeless

For those who no longer have a home to return to, the South Korean government offers help.

Outside the Yeonpyeong elementary school, crews are building small shelters.

Kim Sam Yeol, the project manager, said they are building 15 temporary houses for the people whose homes were destroyed in the attack, so when they return to the island they will have a place to stay while they reconstruct their own houses.

But Kim does not know when people will start coming back to Yeonpyeong.

District manager Choi hopes it will be soon. But he said it may take some incentives.  

Choi said, the island has a long history and he does not think it will ever be completely abandoned. But the government will have to help encourage the people to move back.

Doubts about returning

But for Yeonpyeong residents like 71-year-old Park Myung-jae, it will take more than encouragements to return home.

Park is from a smaller nearby island that was also shelled. He is now staying with family in Incheon and returned to the island for just a short time to check on his home.

Park said there have been many firefights near the island in the past, but the last one was different because of the two civilian deaths. And he added that his government should have been more prepared to protect the residents of Yeonpyeong.

Park said he does not know when it will become peaceful enough for him to return home.

"Over the years, North Korea has made many attacks near the island. I think the government should have had more missile or soldiers stationed here, they failed to stop this attack from happening," Park said.

North Korea's artillery attack killed two civilians and two South Korean marines, and prompted South Korean troops on the island to return fire. Pyongyang said the South provoked the attack by firing into a disputed area of the ocean during a military training exercise. Seoul said its forces were training well away from the disputed area.         

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs