Court ruling has deeper meaning
The sinking of the Cheonan warship became a reminder of the polarization in our society.
The attack on May 26, 2010 killed 46 sailors aboard the naval corvette on patrol on the tense maritime border around Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. Extreme ideological battles followed after the government’s announcement of the results of its investigation into the cause of the sinking. The government concluded that the disaster was caused by a North Korean torpedo attack. But Korean liberals claimed the ship sank after it ran aground. In order for the government’s conclusion or any counterargument to be accepted by the public, it should be based on clear evidence. A court ruling in favor of the government carries significance beyond a purely legal dimension.
The Seoul Central District Court sentenced Shin Sang-chul, 58, to a suspended term of eight months in jail. The civilian investigator in the case claimed the government manipulated the cause for the sinking. It took 47 court hearings and about six years for the court to reach the verdict. In that time, it summoned 57 witnesses, conducted countless investigations on site and worked to verify a multitude of documents, including sensitive military secrets.
Based on the results, the judges concluded that the ship sank after it was hit by a North Korean torpedo, making Shin’s claims groundless. The court looked into all the evidence presented by the prosecution and the accused in order to clear up any possible doubts or rumors over the sinking.
The court said that when taking into account the huge column of water and roaring flash of light - which was indicative of an underwater explosion - and the handwritten “No. 1” on the surface of what was alleged to be the torpedo propellant, the defendant’s arguments did not represent the actual facts.
Korea faces more serious political, economic and diplomatic challenges than ever before. The North Korean nuclear issue is still a conundrum, and the economy is suffering from the flight in foreign capital. Under such circumstances, it is undesirable for anybody to spark social conflict through ungrounded accusations.
Shin’s allegations were found to be defamatory. Deceiving innocent citizens via biased logic must be stopped. We hope the court’s ruling serves as a step toward a more mature democracy.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 26, Page 34