‘My Bad’: South Korean Military Apologizes for Shooting at Passenger Jet
Colonel Lee Bung-woo, a spokesman at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Korea Times that the military sincerely apologizes “to our people for causing worries over the incident.”
The incident occurred on the southern coast of Gyodong Island in Incheon, 80 kilometers (49 miles) west of Seoul, when two South Korean soldiers guarding the area spotted a large aircraft which they believed to be a North Korean military plane.
But the aircraft was in fact an Asiana Airlines passenger plane which was making its descent into Incheon International Airport, carrying 119 passengers and crew. The aircraft was flying from an airport in China.
According to the soldiers, who fired their K-2 rifles, the airplane appeared to be flying north of the normal route for passenger planes. Asiana denied those claims, saying there were no abnormalities.
Despite 99 rounds fired at the passenger plane for about 10 minutes, no damage was reported as the plane was about 500 meters (0.3 mile) out of range of the K-2 rifles. The aircraft landed safely.
Lee said the involved soldiers would not be punished since they acted according to military protocol, adding that further training will be enforced to ensure troops are able to correctly identify civilian and military aircraft.
“The Marines don’t deserve punishment because they didn’t do anything wrong,” Lee told the media outlet. “But we will map out ways to better educate soldiers of frontline units to prevent such incidents from happening again.”
After spotting the aircraft, the two soldiers immediately reported the incident to their platoon leader who in turn contacted the Air Force’s Master Control and Reporting Center (MCRC). However, the MCRC took around 20 minutes to respond while the Marines took additional measures to track the plane at that time, Lee explained.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which is officially still at war, have been at critical since a North Korean torpedo fired from a midget submarine sank the ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean Navy ship carrying 104 people. The attack in March 2010 left 46 people killed.
And months later, North Korean forces bombarded the disputed Yeonpyeong Island, prompting South Korea to return fire at North Korea. The artillery engagement from the North left two South Korean civilians killed, while the South’s return fire killed at least five people in North Korea.