South Korea laid to rest today two marines killed in an artillery attack by North Korea at a tear-filled funeral where top military brass grimly vowed to avenge their deaths.
The Prime Minister, armed forces commanders and relatives attended the nationally-televised ceremony for Sergeant Suh Jung-Woo, 22, and Private Moon Kwang-Wook, 20, held in a military hospital hall near Seoul.
“We will certainly avenge your deaths,” said Marine Commander Lieutenant General Yoo Nak-Joon before their coffins, as sombre music played and relatives cried in the hall packed with uniformed troops.
“We’ll certainly repay North Korea a hundred- and thousand-fold for killing and harming our marines … We’ll engrave this outrage deep into our bones and certainly take revenge upon them.”
The two marines were killed, along with two civilians, when North Korea launched an artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong island in the Yellow Sea on Tuesday, in an attack that triggered alarm bells worldwide.
Mourners took turns to lay flowers and burn incense in front of the portraits of the two soldiers, festooned with black ribbons and propped against an altar decorated with white chrysanthemums.
Following the three shots of a final salute, their bodies were driven to a national cemetery in the southern city of Daejeon for internment. Among the mourners were Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Sik and the outgoing Defence Minister, Kim Tae-Young, who resigned to take responsibility for the military’s allegedly soft response to the bombardment.
In one of the speeches, Corporal Ha Min-Soo, who lived in the same barracks as the two marines, bid them farewell. “Beloved Jung-Woo and Kwang-Woo, we will certainly repay your sacrifice,” he said. “Please become the protective spirits of Yeonpyeong and inspire us to defend the island.” Earlier US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held phone talks with Beijing in regards to the tense situation.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Clinton spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi about America’s stance on the attack. “They talked mostly about North Korea but they did touch on WikiLeaks as well,” Mr Crowley said in a statement cited by Fox News Channel.
“The secretary encouraged Beijing to make clear that North Korea’s behaviour is unacceptable.”