In April 29, with national flags lowered to half-mast across South Korea, a siren blew at 10 a.m. calling for a moment of silence for the 46 sailors lost in the tragic sinking of the Cheonan on March 26. At the same time, at Pyeongtaek naval base, 2,800 mourners including President Lee Myung-bak, first lady Kim Yoon-ok, and the bereaved families, sat as an emotional military funeral for the sailors commenced, broadcast live across the country.
A somber President Lee placed before each portrait of the dead and missing sailors the Hwarang Order of Military Merit, the fourth-highest distinction to service members, and laid white chrysanthemums at the altar. In the eulogy that followed, Admiral Kim Sung-chan, the Navy chief of staff, hailed the heroic endeavors of the Cheonan sailors and vowed to take revenge on whomever attacked the ship. “What happened on March 26 at Baengnyeong Island [near which the ship sank] should not have happened,” Kim read, his voice trembling. “We cannot and must not forgive this or forget this. Whoever caused our people great pains, we will not sit idly by. We will pursue [the responsible party] to the end and make it pay a huge price.”
But what will that price be and who will pay it?