Amidst the frenzy of North Korea’s recent rocket launch, another very important day came and passed. For many of you, this may have been just another day in your life. But whether you knew it or not, March 26th marked the second anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship.
March 26th 2010 was just an average day for the 104 crew members of the Cheonan. They were on a routine patrol near Baekryong Island, which is an extremely tense maritime border with North Korea, when they were suddenly torpedoed. The ship tore apart into two and sank to the bottom of the sea, killing 46 soldiers.
The world had to witness this tragedy as rescue teams desperately searched for survivors. South Koreans were enraged that their country’s fathers, sons, and husbands were ripped from them in such a horrific way. People demanded revenge. Everyone wanted an answer.
But to this day, North Korea denies that it had anything to do with the incident despite an international investigation that confirmed North Korea’s involvement. The South Korean government has been firm in its precondition that North Korea acknowledge and apologize for the incident before any progress can be made in the strained relationship. North Korea, on the other hand, insists that South Korea apologize for pointing fingers. And for two years it has been this way.
In commemoration of the 46 soldiers that died serving their country, thousands of South Koreans visited memorial site located in Incheon all throughout the month of March. Photos were displayed of the fallen soldiers, the retrieval process of the ship, and the sobbing family members of the soldiers during the joint funeral service. And everyone remembered.
I’m not saying that we need to revenge those who died. I’m also not saying that we need to act with aggression in response. However, I am saying that we deserve an apology. People’s lives were taken for no legitimate reason; their family members remain, forced to live with the sorrow left by the vacancy of their loved ones. But that apology may never come. And we may never have an explanation. At least maybe not until unification. Maybe then we can finally make some sense of the things that happened.
But until then, all we can do is remember.