March 14, 2013 12:02
Dozens of fishing boats lay at anchor and activity was low at Yeonpyeong Island piers on Wednesday, although this is the high season for sea bass. Military jeeps were frequently passing dreary village roads and tourists had been replaced by reporters.
North Korea's recent threats have completely transformed the islanders' life. Of the 1,700 residents, more than 1,000 depend on the sea for their livelihood, but going fishing has become a high risk.
As soldiers are on alert and hardly leave their compound, local businesses are even more affected. A restaurant owner said his takings dwindled over 70 percent. "Tourists aren't coming any more, and amid the emergency situation, military officers don't go out for meals."
Worse still, it has become hard to recruit workers from outside the island ahead of the crab season, which begins in April.
But most residents are staying. According to the district office, 308 residents left the island from March 5 until Monday but 350 came back from elsewhere.
At a residents' meeting on Wednesday, people said they are worried that they have never properly practiced evacuation drills. "If North Korea opens fire, many would be at a loss to find shelters," one said.
But the mayor of Incheon, which has jurisdiction over the island, said there are no signs of a North Korean provocation yet. He pleaded with residents to understand how complicated the situation is, adding that creating a siege mentality could be harmful to the tourism industry and the local economy.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won is scheduled to visit Yeonpyeong and Baeknyeong islands on Thursday.
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