Navy men’s joyride ends in injuries

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Navy men’s joyride ends in injuries

In another embarrassment for the military, a naval vessel capsized after hitting an underwater rock, injuring five passengers - and it appears that the craft was giving a joyride to sailors’ families and friends.

According to the Defense Ministry and the Taean coastal guard authorities, a rigid-inflatable boat (RIB) that belongs to the Defense Ministry capsized at sea near Taean - a western coastal town about 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Seoul - around 7 p.m. on Saturday, leaving five of its 15 passengers seriously injured. The 3-ton, fast-sailing naval operations boat is designed to be used for special naval missions.

The passengers included two civilians, eight military family members and five military officers. There were two children and four women on board.

“The officers, families and civilians who were on board visited a military resort nearby for a high school friends’ get-together,” said one military official who asked for anonymity. The official called the incident “embarrassing” and “regrettable,” since it took place as the military has been struggling to improve its tarnished reputation in the wake of the March 26 Cheonan sinking.

“Military investigators are looking into the incident and will take harsh measures against those responsible.”

After the Cheonan sinking, an official investigation of the military by the audit board found its handling of the tragedy sloppy, and that it tried to cover up its bungled crisis management.

Gen. Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, resigned from his post in the aftermath after it was reported that he had drunk heavily the night of the sinking.

In late May, 30 Korean senior naval military officers dispatched to Hawaii to take part in a four-month Rim of the Pacific Exercise, an international maritime exercise hosted by the U.S. Navy, went on a shopping and snorkeling tour around the island with their families. They were part of a 60-strong crew on the 7,600-ton Great King Sejong Aegis Destroyer, which took part in the drill.

While customarily officers are allowed to enjoy free time with their families, such activities have been criticized by the public after the Cheonan sinking.


By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]

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