Saturday, May 18, 2013

An Encounter: ROK Squads Fresh from Exercises Near Uijeongbu?

Quirky Frog Fountain
Amphibious Exercise?
Not ROK Soldiers!
Visit Seoul

I can hardly yet still scarcely grasp that, due to my heavy workload, well over a year had passed since my previous bike ride (a serious one, I mean), but truth is that only on Thursday two days ago did I actually find time for a long longed-for long ride along the long nearby Jungnang Stream (Jungnangcheon: 중랑천), a tributary of Seoul's Han River. I've written before about bike trips along this urban-to-rural-to-urban stream. Although I start out from our apartment, I first enter the bike path along the stream just over the levee from the quirky frog fountain seen above. From that point, everything's uphill as I ride upstream several kilometers to the the familiar pathside beer place, which I finally revisited the day before yesterday, too.

But some kilometers along the way, just after reaching the bridge that I always take in crossing the stream, I encountered a squad of Korean soldiers walking single-file behind an officer and a flagman -- maybe ten to fifteen men -- soon followed by another squad with a different flag, then another, and another, and another, and on and on, the soldiers bearing arms, a few even bazookas! I must have passed more than 200, maybe more than 300. Could have been 500. If I'd been more alert, I'd have counted the flags and calculated from that number. They were all heading south as I biked north in the direction of Uijeongbu.

Something was going on, an exercise of some sort, but I only found out yesterday in my copy of Korean Peninsula Through the Lens (KPTL, Volume V, Issue 97, Friday, 17 May 2013):
A South Korean soldier cleans his gun after a CBR (chemical, biological and radiological) warfare training at Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi Province, north of Seoul on May 16, 2013. Held between Korean and U.S. military, the exercise is meant to affirm and improve their joint management system.
That explanation came with a photo, but I could neither copy nor link to it, so here's the link to a different site showing scenes of the same exercise (which I also couldn't copy). Here's yet another site, which allowed copying.

This is from Tempo (May 16, 2013), in an article titled "Anticipation of Chemical Weapons":
U.S. soldiers scan two South Korean soldiers during their decontamination training against possible chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats at Steel Zenith Field Training Exercise in Yeoncheon (16/5). REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
Yeoncheon is north of Seoul (as noted in KPTL), further north than Uijeongbu, but the latter also has a lot of U.S. and Korean military bases to account for what I saw, though I didn't notice any gas masks, and my impression was that the soldiers were finished with an exercise of some sort.

That encounter reminded me that this divided peninsula remains not entirely at peace . . .

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