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North Korean soldiers boast of Yeonpyeong Island attack

'We cheered … as we saw pillars of fire lighting up from our bombardments,' one says on TV. In South Korea, President Lee Myung-bak tells the country not to fear a war with the North.

December 27, 2010|By Ethan Kim, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Seoul — North Korean soldiers bragged on state-run television about their heroics during the attack on South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island last month that killed four people.

Marking the 19th anniversary last week of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as supreme military commander, four soldiers who appeared to have taken part in the shelling are seen describing the Nov. 23 attack.

"We cheered and congratulated our victory as we saw pillars of fire lighting up from our bombardments," Kim Chul Nam says.

Pyongyang alleges that South Korea fired first into its territory during a routine military drill. Seoul, however, maintains that its artillery guns were aimed southwest, away from North Korea.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called on his people not to fear a war with the North. In his biweekly radio address, he said fear was "never helpful in preventing war. If we are firmly determined to brave any risks, we can fend off any emerging threats."

"We have now been awakened to the realization that war can be prevented and peace assured only when such provocations are met with a strong response," he said.

Lee's comments came a day after the government-run Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul released a report warning that North Korea could next year carry out an invasion of Yeonpyeong and other islands in the Yellow Sea.

The report said that a competition for leadership within the military to show loyalty for Kim Jong Il could embolden the North, which is also expected to conduct a third nuclear test. In recent days, North Korea has threatened to launch a "sacred" nuclear war against the South.

Tension on the divided peninsula has been rising since North Korea unleashed nearly 200 shells on Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Kim works in The Times' Seoul Bureau.

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