Chung Chang-kwon

Yeonpyeong Island resident

On Nov. 23, 2010, a shell fired by North Korea toward Yeonpyeong island pierced the roof of the house belonging to Chung Chang-kwon. The roof caved in on his bedroom. Chung was out of town at the time, and his wife, who was in the living room, barely escaped the destruction.

Chung Chang-kwon: It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, when the ferry was coming in. I was out at the pier receiving guests. My wife was getting ready at home to go to Incheon that day, and then the shell fell on the house. It fell onto the bed through a two-meter-wide hole in the ceiling.

His wife, Lee Myung-jae, suffered trauma from the shock at the time and had to go to the hospital for treatment for two years.

Chung: Half of it had exploded and half just sat on the bed twisted like this. I wasn’t injured, but people who haven't experienced this in person probably don't understand. It was like a movie scene. There was a spark, then black smoke rose. Then, when I saw the fire, I couldn't think straight. After it was all over, I looked back and thought, 'It was really dangerous right then.’

The shelling of Yeonpyeong island was the first instance of a North Korean shell attack on South Korea since the Korean War. The three houses that were shelled by North Korea are preserved on Yeonpyeong island.

Chung: It was a wartime situation that no one had ever experienced. At that time, the whole village turned into a blazing inferno.

After more than a decade, the residents of Yeonpyeong island have recovered from the trauma to some extent, but some people still shed tears as they recall memories from that time.

Lee Myung-jae: I found myself running in place while on my way to find my daughter. I wasn’t running as fast as I thought. I was so shocked that my body and mind were working separately. I still work here, so I can't forget the situation from that time. In my case, everything is still the same. The thought keeps crossing my mind.

Chung says that residents of Yeonpyeong island always live in fear because of the unstable situation on the Korean peninsula.

Chung: Healing naturally was the best. For two or three years, things were very difficult. At first, people reacted sensitively to loud shell-like sounds. But after a certain amount of time, I would go back to my daily life and be in the same normal mood as before. But, I would also think one thing: ‘This could happen again; I need to be better prepared.’

Yeonpyeong island seems to have recovered from the trauma of that time. It is also the desire of the residents of the island to bury the memories from that time.