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South Korea President Lee Myung-Bak presided over an emergency meeting

At the meeting convened today, the participants made an assessment of the effect of the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on the economy, security and government policy in general. They also discussed comprehensive, follow-up measures to be taken by the Government.

At the meeting, it was agreed that necessary measures will be implemented to improve and strengthen national security. First, the existing rules of engagement, which are seen as being rather passive, will be completely revised.

Accordingly, the participants agreed that any new rules of engagement should reflect a paradigm shift in responding to North Korea’s provocations in the future. For instance, the revision will include different levels of counterattack depending on whether attacks are targeted against civilians or the military.

Second, ground forces should be drastically reinforced, including those on the five islands near the northern border in the West Sea. A budget in preparation for North Korea’s asymmetrical threats will be the top priority. In this connection, a plan to reduce the size of the Marine Corps, which was decided in 2006, will be revoked, and marine combat capabilities will be further strengthened.

Third, safety measures for the residents of the five islands will be comprehensively checked and improved. When it comes to inter-Korean relations, the Government will place public safety as the top priority and continue to enforce the May 24 measure against North Korea that suspends trade and exchanges between the South and North. Assistance to North Korea by civic groups will be put under a more stringent review considering public sentiments, South-North relations and other circumstances.

At the same time, diplomatic efforts to seek international cooperation in urging North Korea to change its attitude will continue. Especially, diplomacy toward China will continue with the aim of encouraging it to play a constructive role and make contributions.

Despite the North’s provocation, the domestic financial market is showing signs of gaining stability in a relatively swift manner. Among other things, citizens refrained from panic buying of basic necessities, which attests to the nation’s sound economic fundamentals and mature civic consciousness. This positively influences the international investors’ assessment of the Korean economy.

Still, the Government will not lower its guard and will closely monitor the developments in the financial markets around the clock. If necessary, it will employ preemptive measures.

By continuing close consultations among economy- and security-related ministries and agencies, the Government will provide foreign media organizations, international investors, credit rating agencies and opinion leaders with unequivocal information on the current state of the Korean economy and security situation on a real time basis. By doing so, the Government will manage the overall situation in a constructive way conducive to promoting the stability of the economy.

The President made the following remarks:

“We should never let our guard down in preparation for the possibility of any provocation by North Korea. Such belligerence as we just experienced may happen any time in the future. Of particular importance is that we should maintain total alertness on the five islands near the northern border in the West Sea. The islands are vulnerable to localized and asymmetrical attacks, they should be protected using the best equipment in the world."

“Particularly, civil servants and military personnel cannot afford to slacken their vigilance, but should be prepared for any contingency. However, economic and other activities should be conducted in a normal manner. By doing so, we will be demonstrating the stability of our society.”

Today’s meeting, which lasted for two hours, began with a silent prayer for the two marines and two civilians, who were killed and other people who were injured by the North’s shelling.

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