Today is the 11th anniversary of the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2010. The official name of the government event held at the Daejeon Memorial Hall is ‘Memorial Ceremony for Battle Heroes of the 11th Anniversary of the Battle of Yeonpyeong Island and Victory Ceremony’. Until now, the Marines called it Yeonpyeong Island artillery battle, and the government called it Yeonpyeong Island artillery provocation.
If the Yeonpyeong Island shelling provocation focused only on North Korea’s preemptive attack, the Yeonpyeong Island shelling war meant that it protected the people from the North’s attack and fought back proudly by counterattacking at the same time. On November 23, 2010, Yeonpyeong Island was hit 100 times.
The Yeonpyeong unit quickly evacuated 1,900 residents, regardless of gender and age, to a protective facility, repaired the K-9 self-propelled artillery that had been hit and burned, and counterattacked in just 13 minutes. The sacrifices of two civilians and marines Seo Jeong-woo and Moon Kwang-wook who went to work on Yeonpyeong Island are regrettable, but considering the North Korean wave of preemptive attacks, it was an absolute save. North Korea suffered great damage to the extent of calling the Yeonpyeong unit commander a ‘traitor’ and trembling at the Yeonpyeong unit as a pirate of the South. From the commander to the youngest enlisted soldiers on November 23, 2010, Yeonpyeong Unit is a hero.
However, the evaluation of the Yeonpyeong Unit is really stingy. Commander Yeonpyeong has not yet received a medal. It’s not a matter of whether a single Marine Corps officer gets a medal or not. It is a matter of how our military and government view the operations and battles of the Yeonpyeong Unit. The Yeonpyeong Island artillery battle is not the history of the marines, but the history of the ROK Army and the history of the Republic of Korea, but the reality is as follows. If you look at the process of reviewing the qualifications for the Yeonpyeong unit commander’s award by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is almost speechless.
How did the Joint Chiefs of Staff evaluate the Yeonpyeong unit commander?
After the government formalized the name of the Yeonpyeong Island shelling battle, it instructed the military to reward the soldiers who fought the shelling battle. The Marines reported to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that former commander Lee Seung-do, then commander of the Yeonpyeong Unit, and the 7th Artillery Company commander, Major Kim Jeong-soo or less, were eligible for medals. In September, the Joint Chiefs of Staff officially reviewed them.
It is known that a jury of seven high-ranking generals, including Deputy Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Yoon Eui-cheol, voted four times for the achievements of former Yeonpyeong Unit Commander Lee Seung-do. The question of the first vote was “how to reward?”. Four people received a medal, one was awarded a medal, one was a presidential citation, and one expressed their intention of not being qualified. The question of the second round of voting was “what kind of reward should I give?” and one person received the Hwarang Military Service Medal, three received the Civil Service Medal, one received the Civil Service Award, one received a Presidential Citation, and one was not qualified.
In the second round of voting, the majority vote means to give medals whether it is Hwarang or Inheon. I think we have to decide what kind of decoration to give, but it was a spectacle from the 3rd vote. The question was, “Will the Hwarang Medal of Merit with the highest discipline be awarded?” Four people were against it, including three who claimed unofficial packaging, a presidential citation, and no qualifications. The 4th ballot had a choice between an unofficial medal and a presidential commendation. So, it was decided to be unpackaged.
An official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff commented, “I don’t know why they asked such a question in the third vote” and “It is clear that it is an unfair review.” An official from the Ministry of National Defense pointed out, “I can only see that the third and fourth votes were done so as not to give medals.” The official position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the review of the former Yeonpyeong unit commander is that “the review was conducted fairly and in accordance with the procedures.”
What is the intention of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
At the Ministry of National Defense’s regular briefing this morning, a reporter asked, “What do the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff think about the meaning of the Yeonpyeong Island shelling battle?” It’s not a difficult question, but the Ministry of National Defense refused to answer it immediately, saying, “I do not know exactly the intent of the question,” and the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “In what sense did you ask the question?” The intention of the reporter’s question is to know whether our military is properly evaluating the meaning of the Yeonpyeong Island artillery battle. This is to understand the intention of our military, which is in a hurry to reduce the meaning of the Yeonpyeong Island bombardment.
The Yeonpyeong Unit carried out a near-perfect operation to protect the residents and counterattack in the midst of a heavy rain of steel bombs. The commander of the Yeonpyeong unit led the battle to victory and the completion of the operation by commanding at the Yeonpyeong Island site. In order to properly evaluate the Yeonpyeong Island shelling battle, the first step is to evaluate the Yeonpyeong unit commander fairly.
The public review committee also asked for opinions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. It is known that the former high-ranking general who was asked the question expressed his intention, “It is okay to give medals to the batteries.” It is interpreted as meaning that the medal should be reduced to only the 7th Artillery Company, which fired the K-9 self-propelled artillery, rather than the entire Yeonpyeong Unit. In fact, only the heroes of the 7th Artillery Company received medals on the last Armed Forces Day.
At the time of the bombardment, the military commander was perplexed, not knowing what to do. The right to self-defense was not touched by the rules of engagement in a situation where the people were attacked. The commander of Yeonpyeong, who did not have time to take care of the residents and counterattack, was given a leisurely instruction to report the number of missiles fired by North Korea, but he did not tell us how to fight and how to support. The Yeonpyeong Island Artillery Battle was a lonely battle only for the Yeonpyeong Unit. Are you afraid that if you give a medal to the commander of the Yeonpyeong Unit and appreciate the Yeonpyeong Unit’s achievements, the powerlessness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be revealed? I am genuinely curious about the intentions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.