09 December 2007

sad news in soko

an environmental disaster off korea's west coast. (photo by msnbc)

it's been a sad week in soko.

south korea's worst-ever oil spill has already contaminated 50 kilometers of its fragile western coast. on friday, in rough seas, a samsung barge broke free from its tug and collided with a hong kong-registered supertanker. 2.7 million gallons of crude gushed into the west sea about 5 km off the coastal town of taean in south chungcheong province. although scores of ships, helicopters and thousands of soldiers and civilians have been mobilized to clean up the disaster area, the government is being criticized for its bungled response, taking a full 2 days to stop the oil leaks and for not providing sufficient equipment for the cleanup efforts. oyster, clam, abalone farms as well as the region's important fishing industry are devastated. environmentalists fear a far-reaching ecological impact, as the affected region is one of asia's largest wetland areas.

rip park yeong-cheol.

additionally, last thursday, a man driving a stolen SUV ran into two marines, exited the vehicle and stabbed both, killing 19-year-old, private first class park yeong-cheol. he fled with one of the soldier's A2 assault rifles, 75 bullets, and a grenade and remains at large. the murder occured on gangwha island, which is only about an hour west of seoul. military service is mandatory for all young korean men (except for homos, the disabled, and up until this year, mixed-breeds like me). the approx. 2-year commitment is a common rite of passage for korean men who are often transformed (for better and worse) from soft, nerdy kids to stoic men (aka ajussi jr.). the likelihood that park wasn't a "soldier" but probably just another one of those geeky kids fulfilling his patriotic duty seems especially sad. condolences to his family and friends.

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