SEOUL - Young South Koreans, born decades after the Korean War and enjoying the peace and riches of the most wired country in the world, urged their government on Wednesday to respond strongly to North Korea's artillery attack.
North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on Tuesday, killing two South Korean soldiers and setting houses ablaze in the heaviest attack on its neighbour since the Korean War ended in 1953.
South Korea warned of "massive retaliation" but was careful to avoid suggestion of any imminent action.
"Compared with the Korean War, we are no more lagging behind North Korea in military capacity," said Kang Chun-mo, 36, an office worker at a top business group near Seoul, one of several interviewed by Reuters.
"But our government looks like responding too timidly. They have been talking of 'retaliation', but looking back on the Cheonan incident in March, I feel heavy about our government's response."
Tension between the two Koreas has been high for months after the sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean warship, in March with the death of 46 sailors. The United States and South Korea blamed North for the attack, but Pyongyang denies responsibility.
"I think it is unfair that we keep being attacked by the North, and us not doing much about it," said Min Kyung-ock, 30, a researcher with a government think tank. "I think our country has the right to retaliate and protect our people."
Office worker Kim Eung-soo, 33, said being a wired country helped defuse the tension.
"In the past we could not see pictures or footage of any attacks or military conflicts," he said. "But now I can see them almost on a real-time basis through Twitter or other web services. Yet the technology has also helped ease worries about the North as I can quickly get experts' views that yesterday's attack will not have big impact on the economy."
Kim Hyun-jeong, a 23-year-old university student, said she first learnt of the attack by Twitter.
"I think it is unfair that we keep being attacked by the North, and us not doing much about it," she said. "Previously, I was not threatened by North Korea, but after the incident, I realise the Korean War is not over. I think the government should take a tough stance on the North."
North and South Korea are still technically still at war, the 1950-53 conflict ending in a mere truce, not a peace treaty.
Yang Yeong-hwan, 82, lives in Seoul, the South Korean capital that was razed during the war.
"North Korea is the bad guy to attack South Korean civilians," he said. "Our government should take more stern measures against the North. But what can we do? We have little power. China and the U.S. have the sway."
Chung Doo-sun, born in 1955 and whose daughter and three grandchildren still live on Yeonpyeong, asked why the South didn't return fire "immediately they took the covers off their artillery".
"I mean this is the age of cutting age technology and we talk about how we're looking at everything they do from satellites," he said. "We should have started returning fire the minute they cranked up their artillery. I just don't get it."
(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Incheon and Cheon Jong-woo, Yeonhee Kim, Jungyoun Park and Kim Miyoung in Seoul; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Jeremy Laurence) ([email protected]; Reuters Messaging: [email protected]; +822 3704 5510) (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to [email protected])
© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.