ByÂ Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Kwang-tae-Associated Press
SEOUL | South Koreans stopped their cars, donned gas masks and ducked into underground shelters Wednesday in the country’s biggest-ever evacuation drill – a government attempt to prepare traditionally indifferent citizens for attack byÂ North Korea.
Fears of war on the divided Korean Peninsula have intensified since the rivals fired artillery shells at each other last month across their tense western sea border. Four South Koreans on a front-line island were killed; the North’s casualties are unknown.
Many South Koreans have become used to regular North Korean threats to turn the South into a “sea of fire” and have reacted coolly to civil drills. Yet they expressed widespread anger and shock over the North’s Nov. 23 artillery bombardment ofÂ South Korea‘s Yeonpyeong Island.
It wasÂ North Korea‘s first assault targeting a civilian area since the end of Korean War combat in 1953. Both Koreas accuse each other of staging the first provocation. The North claims thatÂ South Koreafired artillery toward its territorial waters, whileÂ South Korea says it launched shells southward, not towardÂ North Korea, as part of routine exercises.
The nationwide 20-minute evacuation drills Wednesday were the largest since the country began the training in 1975.
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