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[Editorial] A happy ending

Kudos to the doctors at the Ajou University Hospital in Suwon who should be credited for giving the Samho Jewelry’s skipper Seok Hae-gyun a new life through their painstaking month-long treatment of his multiple gunshot wounds. And it was the 58-year-old former Navy petty officer’s strong willpower that made the medical miracle possible.

“I love you, dear,” Seok said to his wife in a clear voice on Sunday afternoon. “I love you too and thank you for being alive,” she told him holding his hand. The news of Seok’s coming out of coma and being able to breathe unaided gave great relief to the people who were praying for his survival since he was flown home from Oman in a special medical evacuation plane on Jan. 28.

Seok was the only one in the crew of 21 to be injured in the Navy’s rescue operation in the Gulf of Aden on Jan. 21, in which five Somali pirates were captured and eight were killed. He was hit by three shots, two determined to be ricocheted bullets fired by his rescuers.

Accounts by his colleagues showed Seok to be a man of exceptional leadership and wisdom. With the pirates on board, he deliberately navigated his ship on a zigzagging course and put some machines out of order in an attempt to delay her approach to the Somali coast, eventually enabling the Navy destroyer catch up with the abducted ship. In the hail of fire during the predawn rescue operation, he guided his crew to safety, himself being hit in the abdomen and limbs.

The successful Operation “Dawn of the Gulf of Aden” staged by a Navy unit in a faraway ocean gave great joy and pride to the people at home who until then had seen their military failing to strike back adequately in such attacks as the North Korean sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Seok is expected to make a full recovery but he remains in critical condition through three surgeries to remove bullets and reconstruct organs and bones.

Doctors will move him out of the intensive care unit to a general ward this weekend but he will have to stay in the hospital for a still unknown period until his body regains normal function and his memory is fully restored. He could then be able to provide his account to help in the trial of the captured pirates, if necessary.

We had another hero in the Cheonan tragedy, UDT Warrant Officer Han Jun-ho who died of exhaustion during the search for the lost sailors in the sunken part of the Navy corvette. Skipper Seok survived and we also thank him for being alive to remain a symbol of bravery in a time of ordeal.
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