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Sport: South Korea: tanks, cannons and "dragon teeth" to "defend at all costs" the border island

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  Corée du Sud: chars, canons et © AFP

C ' is the most west territory of South Korea, the soldiers There are more numerous than the inhabitants and one can see North Korea from almost each of the beaches lined with barbed wire: welcome to the island of Baekryeong, a community on the front line.

much closer to the North Korean continent than it is from the South, Baekryeong has the appearance of a fortress with its tanks parked by the roads, its miradors installed on each hill and its picturesque beaches covered with fortifications in "teeth of Dragon "to dissuade any invasion.

Seoul obtained control of this island of approximately 45 km2 at the end of the Korean War in the 1950s, but the 5,000 inhabitants lived there under a constant threat.

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The island has long been a potential hot spot. The number 1 North Korean Kim Jong-Un targeted it several times, saying in 2013 that it could "rain a sea of ​​fire" on Baekryeong, then organizing in 2017 simulated amphibious invasion exercises.

"Sometimes I have dreams of invasion by North Koreans, especially with what is happening in the news," says Kim Keum-Soook, 64, from Baekryeong, in reference to the record sequence of Missile fire made by the North this year.

The island is of considerable strategic importance for Seoul, because it makes it possible to control the vital maritime tracks of the yellow sea, without which its port of Incheon would be cut off from the world.

It is located two kilometers from the de facto maritime border and only 14 kilometers from the North Korean continent.

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In her childhood, Ms. Kim was regularly evacuated in periods of high voltage.

"I'm always afraid", she breathes, although her husband, Choi Won-Mo, 65, also from the island, says they were "as well defended as possible".

Defend at all costs

the "Marines, the Air Force, the Navy and the South Korean Army are all in Baekryeong, still on alert," explains Mr. Choi.

On the island, there are more soldiers than residents, but the exact size of the garrison is a military secret.

The maritime border between the two Koreas has long been the theater of tensions. At the end of October, troops in the south and north exchanged summons in the waters around Baekryeong after a North Korean ship crossed the "northern limit line", which extends the Intercoreal line of demarcation at sea at sea .

M. Choi notes that such events are "current" on the island, and the inhabitants learned to live with, after 70 years of uncertainty -the Korean War ended with a armistice and not by a treaty of peace, so that the two Koreas remain technically at war.

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During the worst incident of this type, in March 2010, just one kilometer from the island, the South Korean warship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, according to Seoul, killing the 46 sailors on board .

Today, the troops parked on the island regularly perform artillery exercises on the beach -pulling white floating targets offshore.

"Just look at all the troops and weapons here, the government is determined to defend the island of Baekryeong at all costs," said Lee Chung-Dong, a 71-year-old fisherman who lived here for half a century . "It is because they know that if Baekryeong falls, Incheon too".

Tourist destination

despite the dangers -the ferry that goes there borrows a diverted road to make it less vulnerable -the island is a tourist destination.

Hundreds of tourists, mainly national, go there every week, attracted both by the proximity of the North and by its natural beauty.

One of the most emblematic attractions, the rocky formation of Dumujin, is presented as "the last masterpiece of an old god", in the writings of a scholar of the Joseon dynasty.

"The beauty of Baekryeong lies in his natural landscape", estimates Kim Yong-Sung, 50, who visits the island with his colleagues.

"I can feel a certain danger to be so close to the border, but as it has always been the case, it will not help me enjoy its beauty."

recalling that the island has been there for millions of years, Kim Chang-Hee, 75, a guide to the park, observes that "Korea has only been divided for 70 years. One day, this will only be 'A distant memory. "

09/12/2022 06:26:43-BAEKRYEONG (South Korea) (AFP)-© 2022 AFP

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