PAJU (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Army spotlighted a tactical drill conducted by one of its reconnaissance teams near the Demilitarized Zone on Wednesday amid a steady rise in cross-border provocations that were punctuated by North Korea firing off two missiles earlier in the day.
The exercise was carried out by the Army unit located just a few kilometers south of the DMZ and took place one day before the first anniversary of the North Korea-planted land mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers and spiked tensions between the two countries who have been at a constant state of armed readiness since the Korean War (1950-53) never ended in a peace treaty.
Under the blazing summer sun, an eight-member team of the Republic of Korea Army 1st Division carried out a drill with full gear weighing more than 20 kilograms to show the army's enhanced readiness and capability to counterattack evolving military threats from the North in the world's most heavily fortified border area.
Sergent First Class Jeong Kyo-seong, 29, who led the reconnaissance team that took casualties from the land mine blasts last year, said as he led another group of troops, "I know the pains of the two soldiers (injured in the land mine attacks). Whenever I enter the the DMZ area on a reconnaissance mission, I'm determined to retaliate against the enemy if they provoke us."
The noncommissioned officer said he will remain a career soldier and hopes to continue his reconnaissance duty in the Army. "Even if the job is tough and dangerous, I will do my best to defeat the enemy."
Staff Sergeant Lee Hyung-min, also a member of the team attacked by the land mine last year, took part in the latest drill.
In the maneuver, the masked South Korean soldiers simulated a situation of coming across enemy troops who had infiltrated the southern side of the DMZ by crossing the military demarcation line.
Once the point man spots the enemy soldiers, he signals the rest of the team visually to let them know about the presence of the enemy nearby. Under orders from team leader Jeong, some soldiers move to surround the infiltrators under covering fire from their colleagues and effectively deal with the threat.
"I ask my subordinates to undertake every reconnaissance mission with the mindset they are the team leader so they can better react to the enemy's unexpected and unpredictable attacks," Jeong said. "Helped by such constant drills I am confident that our team can react quickly and effectively even if we are subject to the same kind of land mine attack we sustained a year ago."
In the land mine explosion that took place in the DMZ on Aug. 4 last year, one soldier lost both legs and the other lost one. The ensuing inter-Korean military showdown caused Seoul to restart its loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts against the North, which were only discontinued after the communist country expressed "regret" over the mine explosion on Aug. 25.
Meanwhile, to better monitor blind spots around the clock, the Korean Army has set up an unmanned warning system along the MDL. It is a complementary measure to strengthen the monitoring job carried out by soldiers in the general outposts (GOPs) and guard pots (GPs), Maj. Kim Tae-woong, a spokesman for the ROK Army 1st Corp, said.
"We have also removed all the scrub and weeds along the MDL and beefed up the reconnaissance operations since August last year. We believe these efforts will help contain further military provocations near the border," Kim said.
In the past year, however, North Korea has stepped up its military provocations against the South by test-firing missiles and conducting its fourth nuclear test in early January. In its latest provocations, it fired off two mid-range Rodong ballistic missiles, with one presumed to have landed in waters controlled by Japan, the South Korean military said.