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Yeonpyeong Island, which went up in flames and was left a scene of destruction, is a ghost town two weeks after the attack, with most of the 1,300 civilian residents seeking refuge on the mainland and many refusing to return.

Mr. Lee said in comments posted to the presidential website that the government plans to create jobs to allow local residents to keep living on Yeonpyeong and the four other front-line islands.

Seoul has announced 30 billion won ($27 million) to help rebuild Yeonpyeong, while the city of Incheon, which has jurisdiction over the island, has requested help to modernize underground shelters and buy equipment for the fisherman who used to ply their trade on the island.

Associated Press writer Seulki Kim in Seoul, Anita S. Chang in Beijing and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.