Vice Veterans Minister Lee Hee-wan to Visit Yeonpyeong Island Amid North Korea Tensions

SEOUL – In a significant gesture of remembrance and solidarity, South Korea's Vice Veterans Minister Lee Hee-wan is scheduled to visit Yeonpyeong Island, located near the western maritime border with North Korea, later this week. The Veterans Ministry announced on Wednesday that Lee's visit is primarily to honor the soldiers who lost their lives in the 2002 inter-Korean naval clash in the adjacent waters.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the visit by Lee, a former Navy captain, holds particular significance as it occurs under heightened tensions following North Korea's recent artillery shelling near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto sea boundary between the two Koreas. The incident earlier this month has escalated military alertness in the region. Lee, who lost his right leg to a North Korean shell during the 2002 naval skirmish, will visit Yeonpyeong Island on Thursday, just south of the contentious maritime line.

The 2002 clash, initiated by a surprise attack from North Korean patrol ships, resulted in the deaths of six South Koreans and injuries to 18 others. The South Korean Navy estimates that approximately 30 North Koreans were either killed or wounded in the encounter. Lee's agenda on the island includes a visit to a Marine Corps unit to boost troop morale and a tribute at the remembrance wall dedicated to those who fell in the 2002 clash.

Furthermore, Lee plans to meet with a veteran of the 1950-53 Korean War who resides on the island. His visit will also encompass a memorial for two Marines and two civilians killed during North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, underscoring the ongoing legacy of inter-Korean hostilities in the region.

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