[Editorial] A thorough reinvestigation into the sinking of the Cheonan

Posted on : 2010-07-27 13:01 KST Modified on : 2010-07-27 13:01 KST

The result of analysis by a group of Russian naval experts on the cause of the sinking of the Cheonan was sent to the countries involved. The conclusion was a stark contrast to the results of the investigation by the Defense Ministry’s joint military-civilian investigation team, which stated the sinking was caused by a torpedo launched by a North Korean submarine. This report is significant, as it comes from the only outside group allowed access to the investigation results from the South Korean government.

The Russian investigation team stated that crew members of the Cheonan made calls on their cell phones to report that fellow crew members were hurt at 21:12:03, much earlier than 21:21:58, the time of the explosion as announced by the joint investigation team. The material also pointed out that the blades of the Cheonan’s screws were damaged by hitting bottom prior to the disaster.

Based on this, the Russian investigation team raised the possibility that the Cheonan entered shallow seas, that the propeller became caught in netting, and that as it left for deeper waters, it hit a mine that exploded. It appears they are referring to a mine placed decades earlier by the South Korean military that they were unable to recover.

This result is almost the exact opposite of the findings of the joint investigation team. In the event that the Russian investigation team is correct, the justification of the many measures taken against North Korea based on the premise of a North Korean attack would be completely shaken. The fact that Russia and China have not acknowledged North Korean responsibility for the sinking of the Cheonan is not a simple issue of backing one’s own side, but because of this difference in understanding.

Of course, there is also no reason to believe that the results of the Russian consideration are close to the truth. The only thing that is clear is that the need for a complete reinvestigation of the cause of the sinking of the Cheonan has grown more pressing.

As for the method of the reinvestigation, it would be best to conduct a parliamentary investigation, mobilizing under it specialized institutions. Since there is an opposition offer for a parliamentary investigation of the Cheonan, we hope the Lee Myung-bak administration and ruling Grand National Party (GNP) actively respond focused on the offer.

The Foreign Ministry has been ignoring even the existence of opinions differing from the result of the joint investigation team, saying Russia had not informed it of the results of their consideration. However, the government has now received the results of the Russian investigation, via another country involved. They must make public the entire contents of the Russian investigation and have them verified by experts in South Korea and abroad.

Since the sinking of the Cheonan, anachronistic division and conflict between two camps has been taking place on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. A thorough reinvestigation will be very helpful in bringing this futile phase of conflict to an end.

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