Ready, Aim, Don’t Fire!

June 20, 2011

The big story to come out of South Korea this weekend isn’t actually anything new, as I’ve learned from reading up on the history of border tensions following the Korean. However, it seems like whenever any shot is fired is enough to raise the eyebrows of those at the media who want to preemptively declare war with the north.

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — The South Korean military apologized Monday for shooting at a commercial airplane carrying 119 passengers and crew.

The Asiana Airlines flight was preparing to land Friday morning at Incheon International Airport, 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Seoul, when two soldiers fired at the aircraft after mistaking it for a North Korean military jet.

The soldiers were on Gyodong Island near the North Korean border. After firing 99 rounds, they reported the incident.

The South Korean military claims the rounds were only warning shots from K-2 rifles, and there was no damage to the aircraft because it was out of range.
“I sincerely apologize for causing the public concern over the incident,” Col. Lee Bung-Woo, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.

The aircraft, on its way from Chengdu, China, was “flying on its regular route under command of the flight control tower,” Asiana Airlines spokesman Ki Won Suh said.
Asiana confirmed two other flights flew on the same route 20 minutes before and after the firing incident, raising questions about why only one flight concerned the soldiers. The passengers and pilots were unaware they had been fired upon until they landed.

“We understand the guards need more education on how to distinguish civilian airplanes,” said Lee, the military spokesman. But the South Korean military said it will not reprimand the two soldiers because they acted in accordance with procedure.


As today is my “discuss international news” day with my adult students, I thought I’d be able to surprise them with this breaking story. However, they shared some experiences from their time in the military that made me quite nervous about border patrols. Apparently, a friend of one of my students was serving close to the border and was in charge of firing a missile should the occasion rise. When he spotted a passenger jet heading from China to South Korea, he too mistook it for a North Korean attack, and pressed the button to fire (this one was NOT out of range). Fortunately, the firing sequence took several seconds, and in that time, his commanding officer ran over, aborted the sequence, and threw him in military prison for a week due to his overzealousness.

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