“Repeated provocations would bring a harsh response from the South,” says Kim Suk-woo, a former vice minister of unification, responsible for South Korea’s off-again, on-again dealings with North Korea. “They could not seek a provocation at this moment.” Still, he adds, “They are seeking the chance.”
If the atmosphere seems calm, one reason is assumed to be pressure from North Korea’s only major friend and ally, China.
Chinese leaders have never criticized North Korea for attacking this island, or for torpedoing the South Korean navy corvette the Cheonan in March of last year, killing 46 sailors, but China’s desire for “stability” presumably is sending a message to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and his third son and designated heir, Kim Jong-un, believed to have spurred on last year’s incidents to demonstrate his rising power.
“The world is closely watching,” says Cho Won-il, a former South Korean ambassador to Vietnam. “China is very likely to tell North Korea not to try anything,” he goes on, while South Korea ’s President Lee Myung-bak “has been reiterating warnings.”
The result, says Mr. Cho, is that “ North Korea has been retreating.”
These assurances, though, are less than convincing to those who lived through last year’s attack and worry most about its happening again.
"I don’t want to remember it,” says Lee Won-gun, digging for oysters and clams during low tides in the long afternoons. “After the attack I went to Incheon” – the major port city about 70 miles east of here. “I did not come back until February. I am still nervous about North Korea.”