Korean Forces Get Ready to Take Up Lebanon Duties

A contingent of 350 Korean soldiers will be stationed in the southern Lebanese region of Bourges on a peacekeeping mission as part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Bourges is a hilly area about 505 m above the plain surrounded by orange trees.

On Wednesday, with a day left before the arrival of an advance team of about 60 Korean soldiers, the month-long construction of a garrison was in its final stage. A concrete-reinforced protective wall, 30 m wide and 10 m tall, was erected at the entrance of the garrison in preparation for a suicide attack using an explosive-laden vehicle. A sand bulwark was built nearby. An armored vehicle and eight soldiers at a nearby Italian military garrison pointed their guns at this reporter from above the protective wall. Already dozens of beige container barracks stood inside the garrison. Some 20 local workers were operating an excavator and bulldozer to dig a drainage ditch.

"A terrorist attack killed a UNIFIL soldier in an area 30 km east from here in May,” a Korean officer at the site said. “So we can't let our guard down." There is a village named Tayer Deba with a population of about 5,000 half a kilometer from the Korean garrison. Flapping on a tall flagpole at the entrance of the village is a yellow flag emblazoned with a green machinegun, a symbol of the armed Shiite organization Hezbollah of southern Lebanon, which engaged in fierce battles with the Israeli troops last summer. With their village located only 25 km away from the border with Israel, the villagers are either Hezbollah members or supporters. Moghnieh (22), a Hezbollah leader whom I met at a street cafe in the center of the village, said, "Don't worry about the safety of the Korean soldiers. Please keep out the Israeli invasion."

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english.chosun.com  (Posted 7/6/07)