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South Koreans, mourning Cheonan sinking, eye North with suspicion

South Koreans ended five days of mourning with a funeral for the 46 sailors killed in the still-unexplained Cheonan sinking last month. Many Koreans are struggling with how to respond if North Korea is found to have played a role in the attack on the naval vessel.

Survivors from the sunken South Korean naval ship Cheonan carry portraits of the 46 deceased sailors during a funeral service at the country's national cemetery in Daejeon, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

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South Korea on Thursday laid to rest 46 sailors killed in the unexplained sinking of a warship last month, as Koreans wrestled with how the country should respond if North Korea is proved responsible.

Since the Korean peninsula split decades ago, South Koreans and their governments have tried to balance seeking reconciliation and taking a firm line against their hostile neighbor.

President Lee Myung-bak and his wife were among the thousands gathered for the funeral, which was held at a naval base south of Seoul. With TV stations broadcasting footage of the victims’ family members openly wailing and sobbing, it marked an emotional end to a five-day national mourning period.

What happens next is an open question. The cause of the explosion that split the Cheonan, a 1,200-ton naval corvette, in two, is still being investigated by a team of international experts examining the retrieved wreckage. And though the South Korean government has vowed to take strong countermeasures, it has avoided accusing the North.

Pointing fingers at North Korea

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