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P.M. calls for tight defense of West Sea islands

South Korea must maintain full alert at all times for any provocations by North Korea against its western border islands, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said Monday, while visiting the isolated regions that have been the target of North Korean attacks.

South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, one of the five islands located near the western maritime border with the North, became the target of Pyongyang’s deadly bombarding in November.

The attack, which came only months after North Korea’s apparent torpedoing of a South Korean warship, killed four people, marking the first attack on the South’s territory since the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas are technically still at war as their conflict ended in a truce rather than a permanent peace treaty.

Kim, the highest-ranking official here to visit Yeonpyeong Island since the deadly attack, promised residents there that he would promptly reconstruct buildings and homes damaged during the November shelling. The bombing destroyed more than 50 buildings and facilities, sending hundreds of islanders to seek temporary shelter on the mainland for months.

“Before this winter comes, every one of you will be able to live in new homes with a much better living environment,” the prime minister said in a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of new homes for Yeongpyeong islanders. He also promised to improve evacuation facilities.

“Traces of shelling remain everywhere on this island, reminding us of the graveness of security situation on the Korean Peninsula,” Kim added. “The government will get ready for any further provocations by the North so that no more innocent residents will be harmed.”

After touring Yeonpyeong, Kim visited the adjacent Baengnyeong Island to encourage marines defending the region.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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