[Viewpoint] Don’t kill the Cheonan crew twice

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[Viewpoint] Don’t kill the Cheonan crew twice

I have a personal attachment to the Cheonan warship. I served in both the submarine and non-submarine units and was the third commander of the Cheonan. On March 26, 2010, I was assigned to the site in Baengnyeong Island immediately after it was sunk as the training commander of the naval forces, and I oversaw the operation of salvaging the ship as well as the search and recovery of the North Korean torpedo debris.

The Navy’s ship salvage unit and the underwater demolition team worked for more than 50 days to recover the torpedo propeller and the body of the Cheonan near Baengnyeong Island, and I personally confirmed the findings.

As I supervised the entire process of recovering the bodies of the victims and critical physical evidence, I can solidly prove that North Korea is responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan. I want to say this clearly even when some ungrounded, outrageous claims mislead the public.

Two years have passed since the tragic attack, but some pro-Pyongyang voices repeatedly mislead public opinion. I was especially surprised that someone who had served as the prime minister in the last administration raised suspicion over the Cheonan incident.

On March 1, he publicly said, “The Naval Operational Command uses satellites to digitally record all objects, and these records can tell us when the attack started and how the ship had moved. The Blue House has access to this information.”

He insisted that President Lee Myung-bak needed to disclose information that the citizens can trust. It sounded as if the government did not disclose important pieces of information to hide the truth.

If you think everything can be watched from the satellite, you are seriously mistaken. It is nearly impossible to look deep inside the ocean precisely. It does not make sense that the satellite can trace a submarine stealthily moving underwater.

He is either making false claims or has no scientific knowledge. Radar cannot trace a submarine moving under the water. That’s why we use Sonar, sound navigation and ranging technology to detect objects under the surface of the water.

Shin Sang-cheol, who became a civilian member of the group that developed the Civilian Military Joint Investigation Report on the Sinking of ROK Ship Cheonan with a recommendation from the opposition party, still suggests that the ship struck a reef.

An experienced sailor would know clearly that the cause of the sinking was not a rock or a reef. Why does Shin make this claim when he has graduated from the Korea Maritime University and served as a naval officer?

On November 3, 2010, Pyongyang declared through the Korean Central News Agency that the Cheonan had crashed into a rock based on the report by the National Defense Commission. If the ship had collided into a rock before sinking, just as Shin and Pyongyang insist, the surface of the ship should show serious damage. Also, the crew members in the ship would have had sufficient time to escape the sinking ship.

However, the remains of the ship tell otherwise. The naval vessel has been divided into two, suggesting the explosion from the torpedo bent the surface metal. Some victims were knocked unconscious because of the shock, and others swam for the last remaining air in the ship as they didn’t have time to get out. If the ship had struck a rock, the circumstances would have been very different.

The attempts to distort the truth of the Cheonan incident seem to have a suspicious political motive. We should never let some political purpose undermine the victims who lost their lives while defending the Republic of Korea. The crew members of the Cheonan must not be killed again.

If anyone has doubts about Pyongyang’s torpedo attack causing the sinking of the Cheonan, I can explain the truth to anyone, anytime, anywhere. As the third commander of the Cheonan and the supervisor of the incident site, it is my duty and courtesy to the victims and their surviving families to publicize what really happened.

On the matter of security, every citizen should have one voice regardless of their ideology or political inclination. If not, we may suffer another tragedy like the sinking of the Cheonan.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

*The author is a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

by Kim Jung-du
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