The names, faces, stories of the Cheonan’s lost crew

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The names, faces, stories of the Cheonan’s lost crew

The stern of the Korean patrol corvette Cheonan was pulled out of the cold waters of the Yellow Sea yesterday. Along with the wreckage, the bodies of some of the missing sailors were found. Here are some of their stories, as told by family members, friends and loved ones.

Petty Officer Second Class Lee Sang-hee, 21

Lee, who was set to be discharged from the Navy on May 1, was the resident food expert of the Cheonan. After his discharge, he had plans to go to Japan to study to become a Japanese chef. On his personal Cyworld home page, Lee had written, “After my discharge, I will leave to study Japanese for nine months. My aunt has already arranged my stay there.”

Petty Officer Third Class Park Jeong-hoon, 22

Park was born into a Navy family, with his grandfather, father and first cousin being Navy men. Park’s mother said, “I gave birth to my son with physical pain and raised him with emotional pain ... I don’t want to live here anymore because I am too resentful that he is gone.”

Private Jang Chul-hee, 19

Jang was the youngest of the missing sailors, and had only three months of experience in the Navy before he joined the Cheonan’s crew. Family members said he was a quiet man who didn’t express his emotions out loud. However, right before he boarded the ship, he broke into tears when he learned that his grandmother was ill. He wanted to become a railroad engineer.

Private Gang Tae-min, 21

Gang stayed on with the Cheonan even after his six-month mandatory term came to an end, saying that he liked the “family-like atmosphere” onboard. He had a special attachment to the sea from an early age and graduated from the naval engineering department at Hongik University. He told his juniors at the school that he would buy them a drink on his next vacation.

Private Jung Tae-joon, 20

Jung had applied for the Navy without telling his parents first. He decided to enroll when his family’s finances took a turn for the worse after his mother was diagnosed with cancer last year. He boarded the ship on March 18. In phone calls, he had often comforted his family, saying that his new Navy uniform looked quite good and that they shouldn’t worry about him.

Chief Petty Officer Park Gyeong-soo, 30

Park had avoided going to sea for almost six years after he survived the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong in 2002 in which North and South Korean patrol boats had a confrontation near Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. He went back because of his strong ties with comrades and senior officials. He and his wife, who registered their marriage in 2004, were planning to hold a belated wedding ceremony after his mission aboard the Cheonan.

Chief Petty Officer Gang Jun, 36

Gang’s wedding was supposed to take place on May 9. His bride was a fellow Navy officer he had met during his time in Jinhae, South Gyeongsang. They had registered for marriage before he got on the Cheonan. When she learned that Gang was missing, his bride-to-be rushed to Baengnyeong Island aboard the Seongnam.

Petty Officer First Class Park Sung-gyun, 21

Park applied to enter the Navy after only one semester of university due to a difficult economic situation at home. In his last phone call to his parents on March 22, he said that he wasn’t sleeping well. During his off time last month, he told his family that it was really hard to stay on the boat.

Master Chief Petty Officer Lee Chang-gi, 40

Lee, the Cheonan’s sole master chief petty officer, had spent more than two decades as a military man. His nephew, Lee Min-woo, 20, said the two shared a special bond, and it was because he respected his uncle so much that he decided to apply for the Navy. “I was against him [Lee Chang-gi] becoming a Navy officer because I feared that he would not be safe,” said the officer’s brother, Lee Sung-gi.

Petty Officer First Class Sohn Su-min, 25

Sohn was in the middle of a phone conversation with his girlfriend of 10 years when the Cheonan sank. He is described as an active “people person” who headed many clubs, including ones focused on travel and soccer.


By Park Sung-woo [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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