June 30, 2009 12:15
More than 1,000 people gathered at the 2nd Naval Command in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, early Monday to honor the men who fought in a naval clash with North Korea seven years ago. Following the government's decision to recognize the sea battle as a state-level conflict last year, this was the second time the commemorative ceremony was held as a national event.
The families of the six men who lost their lives and those who survived the clash were joined by the prime minister and other government officials.
In the early morning of June 29, 2002, two North Korean patrol boats illegally crossed the Northern Limit Line about 23 km off the coast of Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea. Despite a series of warnings to retreat, the invaders unexpectedly opened fire at vessels trying to protect waters south of the line, killing six and injuring 18 South Koreans. As the South began to counterattack, one of the invading boats caught fire and both retreated, ending the 25-minute battle. Thirteen North Koreans reportedly died and 25 were injured.
The inter-Korean maritime border saw another naval clash in 1999 near Yeonpyeong Island, a fishing area known for its commercial viability. The North still denies the validity of the line, which was drawn by the U.S.-led UN Command at the end of the Korean War.
At Monday's ceremony, Prime Minister Han Seung-soo paid tribute to all those who showed bravery and dedication in the battle. In light of the North's recent nuclear threats, the prime minister also stressed the need to unite as a nation to strengthen national security in expanding efforts to denuclearize the communist regime.
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