By Tim Oberle, Eighth Army Public AffairsApril 1, 2016
DAEJON, Republic of Korea - Government officials, senior military leaders, grieving family members and countless others converged on the National Cemetery in Daejon, South Korea March 25 to commemorate the country's inaugural West Sea Defense Day. The observance was established as a way to demonstrate the nation's resolve in the face of North Korean aggression and to honor servicemembers who lost their lives during the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong in 2002, and the sinking of the Cheonan warship and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.
During her address to attendees, South Korean President Park, Geun-Hye offered words of condolence to the family members of the victims and urged the nation to join together in the spirit of national defense.
"Today we remember the great soldiers who have sacrificed themselves (to defend South Korea) from North Korean attacks," Park said. "I will never forget the great sorrow of the bereaved who have lost their father, husband or son and I send words of comfort…to those who are experiencing this pain."
"Since the invasion of the South on June 25, 1950 North Korea has continued to provoke and attack us resulting in more than 5,000 casualties. To ensure these kinds of provocation don't happen again, we will make the fourth Friday of March each year West Sea Defense Day."
The United Nations Security Council has responded to the most recent string of provocations with economic sanctions, causing tensions on the peninsula to soar to their highest levels since 2010. Park acknowledged the increase in tension, but stressed South Korea's determination to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future.
"Our actions against North Korea to suspend activities at the Kaesong Industrial Complex demonstrates our strong will to fight back," Park said. "The North is currently in a state of deep isolation and the possibility that it may conduct another provocation is the highest it has ever been. I am here to speak up for our governments strong will! We will not be affected by any North Korean provocation and their reckless actions will be their downfall."
Earlier this year, the North conducted its fourth nuclear test and claims to have mastered the technology to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile. With the bellicosity of their usual rhetoric at unprecedented levels, U.S. and South Korean leaders, including President Park are set to begin a Nuclear Security Summit this week in Washington D.C.
"I will be at a Nuclear Security Summit next week in Washington D.C. to further discuss the potential for North Korean nuclear attacks with other world leaders," said Park. "The international community will not tolerate these continued nuclear threats and we will work to get the North Korean government on the path to disarmament. "
As the observance came to a close Park reiterated the need for South Koreans to join together in a united front and praised the sacrifices of those who gave their life defending the nation.
"I hope that today, as we begin to observe West Sea Defense Day, we will all make a commitment to hold fast together in our will to protect the nation," said Park. "West Sea Defense Day is the means to pay respects to the noble soldiers who have sacrificed themselves to defend our country, and it will be a great opportunity to protect our country from future provocations."