Seo Ju Cheol was the man who got the plaudits for attacking the South Korean navy back in July, 2002, causing a great deal of damage during the Second West Sea Battle. He hailed from Yeonbong-dong in Hyesan City, which can be found in northerly Yangkang Province.
During the Korea-Japan World Cup in 2002, an SO-1 class patrol boat, “Deungsangot 684,” attacked the South Korean navy vessel, “Chamsuri 357.” In the clash, six South Korean soldiers died, while eighteen were wounded and the “Chamsuri 357” was sunk.
Defectors from Yangkang Province explained to The Daily NK today that, in September of that same year, Seo Ju Cheol received the honor, “Hero of the Republic,” for his efforts in sinking the South Korean vessel, and as a result he was permitted to visit his hometown and the high school from which he graduated. In his hometown, a great celebratory event was held.
Cho (43), a defector who crossed the border in 2006, confirmed to The Daily NK, “The chief gunner on the boat, the man who led the artillery fire, was Seo Ju Cheol, a graduate of Bongheung Middle School in Hyesan who joined the navy in 1997. After that West Sea battle, he received the ‘Hero of the Republic’ title and graduated from officers’ school. Now he is the captain in charge of a fleet around the Northern Limit Line.”
Kim (37), who escaped from Hyesan in 2005, explained more, “Seo’s house is located in Yeonbong 2-dong in Hyesan. His father was a worker in a factory producing household ironware, while his mother was a housewife, farmed their private terraced plot and sold liquor. They were a needy household.”
Defectors explained that Yeonbong 2-dong is at the edge of the city; a place where comparatively poor classes reside.
Following the upturn in Seo’s fortunes, Bongheung Middle School itself received “Hero School” status.
The North Korean authorities did elaborate work for their Hero of the Republic, remodeling his parents’ house, organizing several events and inviting him to return to his hometown, while Kim Jong Il himself bestowed instruments, athletic clothing and even five computers on the school in 2004.
Seo subsequently travelled the country, lecturing about his military achievements and the victorious battle, and was even invited to present a cadres’ lecture about Kim Jong Il’s great compassion.
However, the North Korean authorities did not release news of Seo’s achievements at all on domestic TV or in any publications, not even in the “Yangkang Ilbo,” the provincial newspaper.
Kim explained the obvious reason, “Right after the battle, the fact that the North had been disastrously defeated was already circulating in society. The authorities were better off not releasing anything about that embarrassing story in publications, which foreigners and South Korean could also read.”
In the Second West Sea Battle, of which Seo was nominally the hero, North Korea suffered approximately thirteen deaths, more than South Korea, while the patrol boat “Deungsangot 684” was practically destroyed.