Skip to main content

South Korean president to marines: Protect sea border 'to the death'

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
updated 9:42 PM EDT, Thu October 18, 2012
South Korean Marines take part in a a military exercise on Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2011.
South Korean Marines take part in a a military exercise on Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, 2011.
  • Lee Myung-bak makes his first visit as president to view his troops' military readiness
  • He is accompanied by his defense minister
  • North Korea shelled the island in November 2010

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak vowed Thursday that his nation would protect its sea border "to the death" as he visited a nearby island shelled by North Korea two years ago.

Lee made his first visit as president to view his troops' military readiness on the frontline island.

Read more: S. Korean Military embarrassed after North defector security lapse

Tiny islands evoke strong emotions

"Now that I am here, I can feel the confrontation (with the north)," he said. "I realize the importance of Yeonpyeong island."

He was accompanied by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.

North Korea shelled the island in the Yellow Sea in November 2010, killing two marines and two civilians.

Pyongyang claims it was responding to South Korea holding a military drill nearby.

The island is close to the maritime border, the Northern Limit Line, which Pyongyang does not recognize.

Read more: S. Korea fires warning shots at N. Korean fishing boats

During his three-hour visit, Lee reiterated his stance.

"I believe that all Korean marines should know that we have to protect the NLL to the death," he said.

The South Korean president said his military would have no choice but to launch a counterattack if there was another provocation.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the North Korean islands from which his troops had fired on Yeonpyeong. He told the military to be vigilant and ready to lead a "sacred war".

These disputed waters have seen deadly skirmishes in recent years.

Last month, North Korean fishing boats strayed south of the limit line. The South Korean joint chiefs of staff said they fired warning shots to ensure the boats returned North.

Read more: N. Korean video taunts South candidate with 'Gangnam'-inspired video

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.