Last Friday, at about 9:30pm Korea time, a 1,200 ton naval patrol corvette sunk off the west coast of the peninsula after an explosion of unknown causes occurred in the rear of the ship. After splitting into two pieces it sunk around 3 hours later. 58 of its 104 crew members were rescued alive.
The entire event has been surrounded with speculation since the initial reports started coming in. The first major news networks to break the news, SBS and YTN, actually reported it as a North Korean attack. Based on what I heard and experienced myself, this caused mild panic among those who first heard the news but quickly dissipated after more reports came in.
Those claims have since been disputed as it is still unclear as to what exactly caused the explosion. Possible explanations so far have been unseen rocks, ordnance malfunctions, underwater mines from China, the North or even the South, and of course, a Northern torpedo. Many of the official statements issued thus far have been that a belligerent Northern attack is unlikely. Reasons being the location is too far from the disputed line and the depth would not provide easy maneuverability for a warship. This latter one sounds weird to me though. The South’s ship wasn’t exactly a fishing boat. At 1,200 tons, it puts it at a mid-range warship just below that of a destroyer or cruiser. I could see the low depth possibly ruling out a submarine but it’s clear that there was enough depth for a deep-water vessel. Also, many people are confused as to how, if the explosion took place at the rear, the ship broke in half. It certainly does seem odd, but I’d think that if the hole was big enough it might have caused the ship to turn nearly vertical as it was sinking. The front of the ship then would have been raised up and it would have snapped in two under its own weight, similar to what happened to the Titanic. A problem still exists though. The Korean ship was in water that was probably no more than 90 feet deep. The ship itself is almost 300 feet in length which might make it hard to lift the ship high enough to produce the amount of stress needed to break it in half. This is merely my own speculation as I have not read or heard anything to that tune so far.
Regardless, I’m not exactly sure what this will do in terms of politics. Personally, I think there will be more fallout if it turns out to be an accident. Domestically, people are not happy right now with what the military is doing to keep its soldiers safe. Coming right off the heals of two previous mishaps from earlier this month, this will not sit well with the public. One can easily sympathize. If a government is going to require its male citizenry to serve in its armed forces, the least the state can do is make sure the equipment, and safety regulations are top notch.
If it turns out to be the North there’s still not much the ROK could really do. An invasion? Retaliatory strikes? No, and No. It will probably be blamed on lower-level commanders in the North to lighten the blame on the regime and absolve them of any responsibility. Remember what happened to the guy they blamed for the currency debacle? Heads are gonna roll!
Not much else is likely to happen. Depending on the results, the South will either beef up its safety regulations/training, or its maritime detection capabilities. War scenarios are unlikely due to the massive losses each side would incur. A measured counterstrike may have been a possibility had it been determined it was the North straight away, but the amount of time that has passed since then has probably staved off any knee-jerk responses.
The media is still trying though! It does its best to stir up the hornet’s nest through shoddy reporting and genuine disinformation. The latest Korean Herald report entitled, “Survivor suggests outside attack on ship” quotes a random lieutenant who was on board as saying, “There is no possibility whatsoever that the ship sank due to an internal explosion or a collision with a reef. I can guarantee that”. Then they’ve got the same guy saying, “The military is currently conducting an investigation and I am not in a position to comment on that,” referring to the possibility of an attack. No comments, eh? Does he have a 2 second memory? A guarantee that it was NOT from within or from the reef sounds like a pretty strong comment if you ask me. My goodness. It’s almost not worth commenting on shit sometimes. How does that kind of junk make into a major news story? I swear the media here just gets its kicks out of seeing how far they can take a story before someone calls b.s.
As a reminder that there’s just as many nutballs back home, check out Pamela Geller’s take on the issue. Monumentally obtuse. I’ll let her blog entry speak for itself:
This is an act of war, no doubt. With Obama at the helm, expect hell to break loose. It reeks of the NORKS. North Korea never would have pulled something like this under Bush. Never. They know Obama will do nothing and South Korea is on her own. Hussein ain’t Truman.
Here’s a comment from one of the commentors:
I am in South Korea right now and this does not look good at all. I have lived in this country for 5 years non-stop, and I can definitely tell you that things have gotten worse with regards to North Korea since Obama was elected. We only had one nuclear bomb tested (which then let the world know they had nuclear weapons) back in October of 2006. No missile testing, no real threats. Everything was so amazing when Bush was in office. Then, when it looked like Obama was going to win, the North started to get provocative. There have been dozens of missile tests and launches in the past 16 months. The firing of cannons between theSouth Korean navy and the North Korean one, back in November, happened 30 minutes out to sea from Daecheon Beach, which is part of Boryeong City, 90 minutes from the city I was in called Nonsan. I was only 2 hours away from the exchange of cannon fire. I remember having to tell my students at the all-boys middle school (American grades 8-10) what had happened and their duty to help the military families in the area. Nonsan is also near the KATC (Korean Army Traning Center) of Yeonmu Dae (a 10 minute drive by taxi). I am acquainted with a former captain and his family from there, who are now in Los Angeles as new American citizens. I just moved a month ago to Jinju, in Gyeongsangnam Province, about 2 hours from the port city of Busan.
Love you all so much, and thanks, Pamela, for shining a light in a dark world!
It’s surprising to see someone who’s lived here for so long to come to such an effed up conclusion.
Pam and her devoted follower’s epic fail at logic and reasoning surmises that the North’s behavior is dictated solely by whoever controls Washington. Although, I must concede that the US play a large role in inter-Korean politics, she doesn’t even consider South Korea and the fact that the current Lee administration has taken one of the hardest stances a Southern president has maintained since the North has become increasingly militaristic in recent decades. They never take into account that the North’s recent actions are much more likely to be a response to the hard-line Lee administration, whose policies are much less benevolent than his predecessors’.
The real gem is the last section of the jcgirl1979’s post:
Yet in the face of this, I have no fear. It may take a skirmish in this country to get it together, as there are massive social problems in this country (4th highest rate of alcoholism in the world, an abortion rate 6-7 times that of the USA, divorce rate hovering around 70%, the highest suicide rate in the world, and the list goes on). I will keep you all posted as to anything going on here.
Of course! Why didn’t they think about that when they were coming up with solutions to Korea’s social ills: WAR! Duh! It sounds like she’s taken a page out of Big Brother’s play book that keeps the proles in line through never-ending war. It’s really quite silly to see someone so clearly aligned with a more conservative political outlook inadvertently give praise to former liberal Korean administrations and a strikingly totalitarian method of social control. What. A. Fucking. Moron.