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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid