No more suspicionsMany suspicions have arisen over the way a petition to re-investigate the Cheonan sinking was handled by the Moon Jae-in administration. On Friday, a presidential committee to shed light on the truth behind the tragic sinking in 2010 made a final decision to dismiss a request to revisit the case from Shin Sang-chul, a former member of a joint military-civilian investigation team on the incident. The presidential committee in December notified the Ministry of National Defense of its decision to reopen the case after previously receiving the request from Shin, and then reversed its decision last week.
The Defense Ministry and Blue House kept mum on the suspicious developments for nearly four months until Shin’s petition and the presidential committee’s reversal of its earlier decision to revisit the incidence was disclosed by the JoongAng Ilbo. The ministry even hid the developments from surviving sailors of the Cheonan corvette and the families of 46 sailors, killed by a torpedo attack from a North Korean submersible off the coast of the Baekryeong Islands near the tense maritime border on the Yellow Sea. After the presidential committee’s decision to re-investigate the sinking was revealed by the JoongAng Ilbo, the bereaved families and survivors were outraged.
The Cheonan was found to have been sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack on March 26, 2010. The warship was cut into half by the so-called bubble jet effect from underwater explosions. Fourty-six sailors aboard the ship were killed and the ship is displayed at the headquarters of the Navy’s Second Fleet in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi. The cross section of the destroyed ship shows its steel frames severed vertically due to a strong explosion from under the ship.
No evidence of the warship running aground or colliding with a U.S. submarine, as claimed by Shin, could be found. No trace of the ship hitting an undersea rock was left. A U.S. submarine mostly heavier than 8,000 tons cannot sail in such shallow waters as the sinking spot on the West Sea. Besides, there is no sign of collision with a submarine on the surface of the ship. In the first and second trials of Shin, the court denied any possibility of the warship running aground at the time.
Shin’s claim that the warship simply struck aground is the same as letting North Korea off the hook. His argument basically constitutes a denial of our military’s conclusion that the warship sank by a North Koran torpedo. We cannot know why the presidential committee first accepted his petition instead of rejecting it from the start. There are suspicions that the committee attempted to re-investigate the sinking and gave it up after public opinion was getting worse after the paper’s revelation.
How could the people trust the Blue House and Defense Ministry? Could a government incapable of finding fault with a North Korean provocation improve inter-Korean relations? The government must make public all the lead-up to the committee’s decision not to revisit the incidence and apologize to survivors and the bereaved families for the shocking developments.