Two South Korean soldiers, Kim Jeong-won and Ha Jae-heon, were honored on Wednesday with a memorial dedicated to peace and their sacrifices. Kim came to the ceremony in a wheelchair. Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- South Korea established a memorial to soldiers who were injured during an August land mine incident that escalated tensions at the border.
The impact of the explosion resulted in serious injuries for two guards: 23-year-old Kim Jeong-won and his fellow soldier Ha Jae-heon. Ha, 21, lost both legs, and Kim lost his right ankle when he stepped on a land mine while attempting to rescue his colleague.
The memorial, sculpted in the shape of a leg and a foot in motion, symbolizes the first step toward oneness with peace, as well as the spirit of the soldiers, the South Korean military said. Yonhap reported the memorial also was an allusion to the North Korean land mine provocation, for which Pyongyang has denied responsibility despite South Korean findings.
Wang Kwang-hyun, the sculptor, said his work is a symbol of the lost legs of the heroes, and the bare foot represents a day when unification could bring about peace, and people can freely walk across the heavily fortified DMZ.
The sculpture's material includes melted components of a South Korean artillery shell and dirt from the DMZ, Wang said.
Ha arrived at the unveiling ceremony in a wheelchair. JoongAng Ilbo reported Ha's mother, Kim Mun-ja, cried and hugged her son during the emotional observance.
Both soldiers received South Korea's Order of National Security Merit medals.
Kim was still undergoing rehabilitation at a South Korean veterans hospital but had agreed to attend the ceremony.
Tensions related to the incident were resolved in late August, when North Korea expressed "regret" for the explosions, but without claiming responsibility for the land mines.