North Korean military fires artillery on populated South Korean island

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Map of Yeonpyeong (3.) and other islands on the northwest coast of South Korea.
Image: Amble.

The North Korean military has fired over 200 rounds of artillery shells at South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, injuring at least 14 soldiers and 4 civilians. There are reports of deaths, though the exact number is unclear. At least one S. Korean soldier is reported to be among those killed. Exact estimates on damage are currently unknown, but smoke plumes can be seen rising from the island, according the witnesses at the scene. The attack occurred just after 2:30 p.m. local time (5:30am UTC).

In response, South Korea has fired at least 80 rounds of artillery in retaliation, while President Lee Myung-Bak meets with the nation's cabinet in a secure bunker to discuss the situation and their response to it. Fighter jets were scrambled to the scene while S. Korea was put on its highest peace-time military alert.

S. Korea had been taking part in annual military exercises off the island's west coast when the attack occurred. Officials are investigating whether or not the attack was in protest to the exercises. Earlier in the day, N. Korea issued a statement denouncing the exercises.

At least 1,300 people live on the island. According to Sky News, some residents have begun to leave the island and are headed towards mainland S. Korea.

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