Sacrificing hope for answersThe Cheonan debacle entered a new phase as the military stopped search and rescue operations for the missing crew yesterday to focus on recovering the ship as fast as possible, accommodating requests from the families of the missing sailors.
The families asked for the operation to cease in the wake of the death of Warrant Officer Han Joo-ho, a diver who was swept away trying to rescue crew members, and the subsequent incident in which nine civilian sailors participating in the rescue effort died or went missing. We express deep respect for their courageous decision. Now both the government and the military should respond to their sacrifice by pulling the ship out of the water, finding out whether the crew are dead or not and answering questions about the cause of the sinking.
The other day, the body of Nam Ki-hoon, a senior chief petty officer who died inside the Cheonan, was delivered to the Navy. His family is devastated. Regardless, the families made a grim decision, worrying over additional loss of life in the course of the risky rescue effort. This is a noble sacrifice, as the families are willing to give up the last shred of hope. Because these families showed such courage, the government, military and all Korean people need to calm down and patiently wait for the ship to be brought to the surface.
Even though 10 days have already passed since the tragic sinking, the exact cause is still not known. Presumptions are abundant: a North Korean torpedo attack, the explosion of an underwater mine, an internal explosion, striking an unidentified rock, etc. But they are still just possibilities. Against this backdrop, it would be very dangerous for the government to lean toward a particular possibility. Until firm evidence is discovered, the government should not presume anything, as this would only deepen the chaos and confusion. Now the government should exert all its effort to pull both the bow and stern from the sea, and include the participation of civilian teams to affirm whether the crew are alive or dead. The Korean people should also watch the activities of the Joint Investigation Committee patiently.
The government should bear in mind that the families’ request to stop the search means only that they are not willing to accept the military’s rescue efforts. A group of the families expressed their strong distrust and resentment for the military, saying, “For the past eight days, the military has done nothing.” They requested to stop the rescue just out of worry that the current rescue effort would not lead to an answer. Therefore, the government should find out who is responsible for all the problems in the search and rescue effort so far.