Defying findings, liberals demand truth on Cheonan
Major liberal civic groups in South Korea are using the one year anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan, which falls on Saturday, to remind the public that there is still doubt how the warship sank and distrust of the multi-nation investigation that concluded North Korea torpedoed it.
Liberal civic groups, including the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and the Civil Peace Forum, gathered yesterday at the National Assembly to hold a discussion to demand the truth about the tragedy. Opposition party members from the National Assembly were present, including Chun Jung-bae of the Democratic Party, Democratic Labor Party leader Lee Jung-hee and New Progressive Party head Cho Seung-soo.
A press conference was held by members of the groups earlier in the day in front of the central government complex in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, to demand the government clarify the circumstances of the March 26, 2010 sinking, and to plea for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Yoon Duk-yong, emeritus professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and head of the joint investigative group examining the Cheonan case, denounced the groups. The joint investigative group was comprised of 49 South Koreans and 24 foreign experts from the U.S., Sweden, Australia and Britain.
“They are people who raise doubts to create doubt,” Yoon said. “They are trying to find evidence after they already decided that they didn’t want North Korea to be blamed, but that is wrong,” said Yoon.
Yoon also had bitter words for two U.S.-based Korean scientists that raised questions over the investigation that was carried out by military and civil specialists last year, who were present at the discussion at the National Assembly yesterday.
“If they are scientists, they should look at [the Cheonan] and make their judgment,” Yoon said. “These people have not even seen the Cheonan. It is difficult to understand people who just sat in their labs, experimented and chose not to believe in the people who actually investigated the real thing.”
Lee Seung-hun of the University of Virginia and Suh Jae-sung of Johns Hopkins University claimed that their lab experiments pointed to inconsistencies in the report from the joint investigation group.
Lee said yesterday that the truth regarding the Cheonan “lies within the territory of absolute science and beyond the borders of conservatism and liberalism.” The professor demanded that “rational and scientific” debate take place to prevent the Cheonan incident from falling into the “territory of faith.” Lee’s short speech at the beginning of his presentation was briefly interrupted by a bystander who shouted profanities.
The professor went on to demand a parliamentary inspection on the Cheonan. “They said it was a joint international investigation, but all the other countries did was support the South Korean experts in their findings,” said Lee Tae-ho of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. “They said they respected the South Korean government’s decision. They never said that they investigated [the Cheonan] themselves. There was never a complete list of the foreign experts, nor the visitors. Just a few names of the leaders in the group.”
Lawmakers from opposition parties have demanded questions raised by the public be resolved by the government. “The South Korean people and international scholars still have doubts on why the Cheonan sank,” said Park Jie-won, floor leader of the Democratic Party. “The government should come forward actively and dissipate these doubts. He urged the government to disclose details of the Cheonan “like they did in the rescue operation in the Gulf of Aden.”
Park also demanded that meetings of the special committee for the Cheonan be restarted, as only two were held since the sinking of the corvette. “[The Democratic Party] never said that North Korea was or was not behind the sinking,” Park said. “If it was North Korea, then there should be firm measures using all methods possible so that North Korea takes proper responsibility. “President Lee Myung-bak has said that he has hard-line policies regarding North Korea, but they are not tough, and national security and inter-Korean relations have all failed,” he continued. “I feel a regional military conflict coming on as the government is in a helpless state.”
North Korea denied sinking the Cheonan, insisting it is “a huge plot strictly unrelated with us.” Working level military talks to plan high-ranking military talks in February fell apart over the Cheonan. The North Korean delegation abruptly left the talks on Feb. 29, accusing the South of “a scheme to justify its confrontational policies after being controlled by the U.S.”
By Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]