Saturday, November 27, 2010

South Korea bids farewell to fallen soldiers

South Korea on Saturday bade farewell to the two soldiers killed in North Korea's attack on a South Korean island earlier this week, as hundreds of mourners paid their last respects to them in a funeral marked by pledges to avenge their sacrifices, Yonhap news agency said.

Sgt. Seo Jeong-woo, 22, and Pvt. Mun Gwang-wook, 20, were killed Tuesday on front-line Yeonpyeong Island when the North bombarded the western isle and its surrounding waters in its deadliest attack since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The fallen marines were posthumously promoted one rank and decorated with an Order of Military Merit, it said.

"We will pay North Korea back 100 times, 1,000 times for brutal killing and wounding our soldiers, who were the pride of the Marines," Yoo Nak-jun, head of the Marine Corps, said in a memorial address. "Rest in peace as eternal Marines," he said, referring to the motto "Once a Marine, Forever a Marine,” Yonhap said.

Some 500 military officials, politicians, foreign envoys and citizens who came from across the nation attended the ceremony hosted by the Marine Corps to pay their respects to the deceased.

After a silent prayer at the start of the service, a solemn-faced Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik laid flowers in front of portraits of the two deceased on a huge, chrysanthemum-laden altar, followed by political party leaders, including Ahn Sang-soo of the ruling Grand National Party and Son Hak-kyu of major opposition Democratic Party, as well as the Japanese envoy and vice U.S. ambassador to Seoul. Defense Minister Kim Tae-young, who stepped down earlier Thursday after the incident for mishandling the attack, also paid his respect to the fallen soldiers.

Grieving family members, clad in black, sobbed with their heads bent while eulogies were read during the nationally televised ceremony at the military hospital, it said.

The ceremony was held on the fifth day since the marines' deaths in honor of their sacrifices, while most Korean funerals take place on the third day after a person's death.

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