Conflict & Justice

Aftermath of North Korean shelling

Most residents of the South Korean island of Yeongpyeong have left the island, after last week's shelling by North Korea. But some remained, as Jason Strother found out during a visit to the island.

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Loud speakers around the island urge residents to go to the community center if they want to evacuate to the mainland. But pretty much everyone has already gone.

Only about 30 of Yeongpyeong Island's 1,500 inhabitants have stayed behind. Houses are abandoned and shops are closed. It's a virtual ghost town with the occasional sound of military helicopters flying overhead. Walking around some of the damaged areas, its easy to see why so many have left. In one alleyway, broken glass is everywhere.

Several buildings have collapsed in on themselves, others have been gutted by fire. Just one block away is the home of Ahn Gwang-hun. He's lived on the island for 50 years. When I met him, he and his wife were washing cabbage to make kimchi.

Ahn is a fisherman, like many here. But the military has kept him shore-bound. He says that's no problem for now. Ahn says �we were actually making kimchi when the attack happened. But we are not ready to leave the island, there are still many things we need to do here�

Another fisherman, Kim Young Su, 51, is also keeping busy. Driving by in his flatbed truck, he says .he's been driving people around the island, but he doesn't charge anyone. Crews have been stringing new power lines in damaged neighborhoods. One electrician says that the repair work is almost done.

And in what was the playground for Yeonpyeong's elementary school, construction crews are assembling small shelters. Crew Manager Kim Sam Yeol says they're building 15 temporary houses for the people whose homes were completely destroyed during the attack. So when they return they will have a place to stay. The government is picking up the tab, but Kim says he doesn't know when people will start coming back.

Yeonpyeong district director Choi Cheol Young says, this island has a long history and I don't think it will ever be completely abandoned. But the government will have to encourage people to move back. He says it may take more than a little encouragement. Many are worried that North Korea will strike again.

In fact, that's what people feared was happening yesterday when authorities ordered everyone on the island into bomb shelters. Artillery shots had been heard in the distance. The South Korean military reported that the North Korean base across the sea was bringing surface to surface missiles onto the launch pad. After a half hour we were told it was safe to go outside.

And many headed straight to the ferry dock. On the boat was Park Myung Jae who lives on a nearby island that was also shelled. He says people are used to military skirmishes but after the two civilians were killed, many realized this was more than that. Park says, I don't know when it will become peaceful enough for me to return to my home. Over the years North Korea has made many attacks near the island. I think the South Korean government should have had more missiles or soldiers stationed here, he says. �They could have prevented this attack.�