Even the plucky few residents who returned after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 23 are fleeing ahead of South Korea's live-fire drills this week.
Yeonpyeong, South Korea
On the eve of South Korean live-fire drills that North Korea vows to answer with "merciless strikes," desperate Yeonpyeong Islanders are fleeing their homes for the second time in a month. Some stopped at a local church to make one final prayer for their hometown before boarding a boat for mainland South Korea.
As they packed up and made for the harbor, the threat of further artillery strikes on this frontline South Korean outcrop seemed to hang perilously in the mist that concealed neighbor and enemy, North Korea.
Despite threats by the North, South Korea vowed again Sunday to proceed with planned live-fire drills off Yeonpyeong Island either Monday or Tuesday.
“I am afraid what might happen when the drills start,” says Park Mee-young as she scooped up her two young sons, gathered some belongings, and headed for the ferry terminal after the church service ended.
Ms. Park is one of the plucky few residents who returned after North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at Yeonpyeong Island, killing two soldiers and two civilians in the worst attack on its neighbor since 1953.
Now they're all heading out while they still can.
About a dozen took part in the emotionally charged gathering inside a hall adjacent to the church, which saw almost every one of its windows blown out in last month’s attack.
For one woman, the pall that hangs over the island’s future was too much. Overcome with emotion, she struggled to contain her tears, using her fingertips to wipe away streams running down her cheeks.
Outside, the village remains a wreck. In the aftermath of the tragedy, few islanders returned – most preferring the safety of a public bathhouse in the nearest port of Incheon to the ruins dotted around the main island settlement.