No punishment in Cheonan sinking

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No punishment in Cheonan sinking

The South Korean Ministry of Defense has decided that four of its commanders who were prosecuted regarding the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March - including the former captain of the ship - will not receive criminal punishment after the results of the investigation were announced yesterday.

The four who were charged - Choi Won-il, the surviving captain of the ship; Kim Dong-shik, former commander of the second squadron; Park Jeong-hwa, former commander of naval operations; and Hwang Jung-sun, former top officer of operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff - were either given suspended indictments or were cleared of charges.

But, the ministry said yesterday, disciplinary punishment has been sought for the four, in regard to “general opinions inside and outside the military as well as the defense minister’s opinion that the commanders should take responsibility.”

Choi, Kim and Park were found guilty of charges of negligence in preparation for the battle.

The Ministry of Defense, however, shielded the men from criminal punishment because a legal proceeding in a civil court could diminish “the operations of our commanders and also have a negative effect on the military’s morale.”

Prosecutors within the ministry in charge of the investigation said that the decision was made after considering various legal issues, the situation in which the Cheonan sank, the military’s morale and its unity, possible effects on future military operations, and what the accused did for the country’s security by returning with 58 men alive.

“The military has been reflecting on the Cheonan case and scrutinizing what the problems were,” said a military official.

By Jeong Yong-soo, Christine Kim []
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