April 19, 2024

Behind the political rhetoric, normality returns to Yeonpyeong

If one raises the subject of “Yeonpyeong Island,” with people, both Korean and non-Korean, it usually revives the images of the rising palls of smoke, burning homes, shattered glass-“is that the island that got bombed by North Korea?” and a mass exodus of its residents. “It’s our home, but 80 percent of us don’t want to come back,” [1]. It was with curiosity therefore, that I boarded the ferry at Incheon for the two and a half hour crossing.

Nine months after the 23rd November 2010 attack, the strongest impression to take away from the visit is normality. Soldiers and policemen confirmed that almost every one of the 1,300 residents who lived here in November still live on the island. All but 60 or 70 had returned in February this year [2] There is no atmosphere of a mass migration to the mainland. Children run and play with the same happiness as they do in any South Korean mainland town or city. There is stoicism in some of the residents but what really distinguishes them from South Koreans on the mainland is not what happened in November but the fact that they live in a small island community. The spirit on this island is warmer and more welcoming than in the metropolitan cities on the mainland.

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