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Netizens Question Cause of Cheonan Tragedy
Online media challenge claims that North Korea is responsible for sinking the Cheonan
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2010-06-08 11:49 (KST)   
The South Korean government headed by Lee Myung-bak is trying to dispel criticism that its accusation that North Korea is responsible for the sinking on March 26 of the Cheonan warship is politically motivated and a cover-up or possible false flag operation.

On May 20, the South Korean government presented as incontestable fact its conclusion that the warship Cheonan split in two and sank because of hostile action by North Korea. Online discussion seriously challenged that presentation. Perhaps not coincidentally, May 20, the day of the presentation coincided with the date when campaigning for the June 2 provincial and local elections was to officially begin.

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The military communication logs show that the first message from the Cheonan of trouble said "aground on rocks". The ship was in shallow waters. Similarly, numerous early statements by both South Korean and US officials assured the public that North Korea was not involved with the incident.

The rescue operation saved 58 of the crew members. Forty-six of the 104 members of the ship's crew died as a result of the ship's breaking in two and sinking. Relatives of the sailors who died complained that the rescue effort was inadequate and too late. Public criticism of the Lee government grew regarding how it was handling the ship disaster. A so called international group was charged with the task of assessing blame for the disaster. That Joint Investigation Group (JIG) was under the Korean military.

The Investigation

When the five page investigation statement (1) was presented on May 20, however, North Korea was accused of being the cause of the disaster. The accusation was based on a part of a torpedo allegedly dredged up from the sea which bore a supposed pen marked number on a rusted surface.

The sinking of the Cheonan occurred during a period when the US military and the South Korean military were conducting joint military exercises named Key Resolve/Foal Eagle. The joint South Korean-U.S. naval action involved several Aegis class warships which have the most advanced computer and radar systems to track and guide weapons to find and destroy enemy targets. The Cheonan was a patrol combat corvette (PCC) specializing in anti-submarine warfare.

The investigation statement claims that somehow an undetected North Korean submarine pierced a highly protected arena of US-South Korean military maneuvers and released a torpedo in shallow waters, and then escaped totally undetected.

An article in the Korean newspaper Hankyoreh (2) points out the unlikely scenario that "a North Korean submarine (would be able-ed) to infiltrate the maritime cordon at a time when security reached its tightest level and without detection by the Cheonan."

No evidence was presented as to the actual firing of the torpedo or the actual presence of a North Korean submarine in the vicinity of the Cheonan. There is no actual observation of a North Korean submarine in the area of the Cheonan, despite the fact that there was sophisticated surveillance equipment used for the military exercises. Also, the shallowness of the sea where the Cheonan sunk, about 40 to 50 m and the rocky bottom would make submarine travel near there almost impossible

The statement of the investigation is unsigned. The parties who allegedly conducted the investigation are unnamed. Instead of facts to document a basis for the accusations which might lead to war, a number of allegations are followed by the statement that "There is no other plausible explanation."

Blogs and other online media

The accusations made by the conservative media in South Korea about North Korea have taken on a James Bond quality given the mismatch between the reality of North Korean capability and the claims being made of how it has been able to perform amazing deeds. Blogs and other online media in both the US and South Korea have presented facts and discussion challenging the claims in the investigation statement, and proposing other alternative explanations of the cause of the sinking of the Cheonan. These online discussions and questions have begun not only to supplement newspaper accounts but also to become the subject of newspaper articles in South Korea.

Questions discussed on blogs included whether there was a North Korean or German made torpedo involved in the sinking of the Cheonan, or whether there was any involvement of a torpedo at all (3). An online letter (4) addressed to Hillary Clinton by one of the members of the investigation questions whether the marks on the ship came from being run aground or a collision with some other vessel or both.

The whole story as a false account?

The nature of the pen mark on the torpedo part offered by South Korea as its main evidence that the torpedo was fired by North Korea was challenged (5) as not being a reliable piece of evidence of North Korean involvement because there was rust under the pen mark. Also, the blades of the offered evidence show a degree of corrosion that would usually require far more time than the two months in the water as claimed.

Another blog (6) challenges the whole story of the South Korean government as a false account like the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Some of the Korean netizens and political activists who challenged the South Korean government about the cause of the Cheonan sinking have been referred to the prosecutor for charges (7).

The South Korean government has been cited (8) by both Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur for the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Amnesty International for interfering with the rights of South Korean citizens and netizens.

They need teeth

Given the growing set of questions about the South Korean government account of the sinking of the Cheonan, the government has invited (9) some chosen bloggers and twitter users to a session "to dispel any doubts among the young that North Korea was behind the deadly attack".

A Yonhap News Agency press release explains that it will select 20 twitter users, 10 defense bloggers and 30 college reporters "to take a trip to Pyeongtaek naval port south of Seoul where the salvaged parts of Cheonan are being kept." The article explains that "The event is aimed at removing skepticism among young Internet users who have raised doubts in online communities about the results of a multinational investigation that concluded North Korea downed the ship in a torpedo attack."

Like in the case of 9/11, careful fact checking and examination of the evidence by netizens has shown the South Korean government's case for the involvement of North Korea in the sinking of the Cheonan to be unsustainable. Netizens are more and more able to act as watchdogs. But they need teeth.

(1) http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/20_05_10jigreport.pdf

(2) http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/421856.html

(3) See the comments at the end of the Scott Creighton셲 blog entry, "The Sinking of the Cheonan: We are being lied to" May 24, 2010 ( http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/the-sinking-of-the-cheonan-we-are-being-lied-to/. Some selected comments follow the notes at the end of this article.

(4) http://www.seoprise.com/~bu/dk/Letter_to_Hillary_Clinton_US_Secretary_of_State.pdf

(5) http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/pcc-772-cheonan-photographic-evidence-that-no-1-written-on -top-of-rust/

(6) http://gowans.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/the-sinking-of-the-cheonan-another-gulf-of-tonkin-incident/

(7) http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2921120

(8) http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/opinion/docs/ROK-Pressstatement17052010.pdf

(9) http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2010/05


Some comments from Scott Creighton셲 blog entry, "The Sinking of the Cheonan: We are being lied to" May 24, 2010

6. Tim, on May 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm Said:
쁔he markings in Hangul, which reads 1踰(or No. 1 in English), found inside the end of the propulsion section, is consistent with the marking of a previously obtained North Korean torpedo.
Now, just hang on a minute ? a previously obtained NK torpedo? A previously obtained NK torpedo??
How many do they have?
Is it not beyond the realms of possibility that this 쁢vidence did not originate from NK at all.
We really ought to demand the same level of ballistic forensics that apply to crime scenes where
ordinary firearms have been discharged.
After all many more lives could be at stake here.
57. Mika, on May 27, 2010 at 5:34 am Said:
You may want to have a look at this:
Ive not tried verifying any of the claims made there yet, but the comments about the Korean handwritten writings are damning if true, and if there was indeed still a large scale exercise going on, that makes it
completely unthinkable a NK sub would have penetrated that deep, sank the cheonan and got away again.
OTOH, it does provide a rather credible alternative scenario: a friendly fire incident blamed on the North Koreans. Kursk anyone?
145. willyloman, on May 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm Said:
the following comment was left by a reader and it did not go through so I am posting it here so that
others may read it.
Mr. Serandos: WordPress sometimes has problems with comments it should work fine but if posting
again presents a problem, just me know. thank you
scott creighton, willyloman
Tom Serandos left the following comment:
I tried to leave the following message on Mr. Creighton셲 site but I don셳 think it went through.
PCC-772 report: I agree with the contents of the report.
Examine the photographs of the PCC-772 props. The deformation on each fluke is evidence of
grounding while making turns. If there was an explosion it occurred after the ship ran aground or only the lower flukes would have been damaged when it settled to the bottom. The damage to the shaft alleys would have locked up the props.
If there was an explosion perhaps it was an unexploded bomb from the Korean war or a mine the S.
Koreans have not retrieved (reportedly there are over 100 of those still out there). It could have been in the vessels path when it grounded.
Also, the degree of corrosion on the torpedo parts indicates they have been in the sea for a very
long time (months). It was long enough for the active alloy in the props to set up a galvanic cell with the other parts.
I am a degreed metallurgist with 25 years of experience and seven years of service in the U.S.
Nuclear Navy.
Tom Serandos
166.Han Kim, on May 29, 2010 at 7:30 am Said:
I셫 Korean and many korean ppl know the govt is making things up.
As you might know, the only reason the govt manipulated the truth is to get more votes on the
upcoming election from the old generations. :)
Keep up the good work!
We really appreciate the voices from outside Korea
203.??, on May 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm Said:
Dear Scott,
have you seen this article, 쏡id an American Mine Sink South Korean Ship? by one Yoichi Shimatsu:
He makes many good points, what I셝 like to highlight is what he says about the type of torpedo
submitted as evidence on May 20:
쏶ince torpedoes travel between 40-50 knots per hour (which is faster than collision tests for cars), a
drive shaft would crumble upon impacting the hull and its bearing and struts would be shattered or bent by the high-powered blast╈
My point is that even more bewildering than the various torpedo schema we셶e seen is the very
implausible situation that such a relatively intact remnant of the alleged weapon exists as foisted onto us.
North Korea is also now vigorously bringing forth their defense, which is comprehensively exposing the various contradictions in the 쏪IG case. See my link of 쏮ilitary Commentator on Truth behind 쁓tory of Attack by North (Part 1) http://tinyurl.com/29eh9zj The KCNA site won셳 link directly, so I셫 linking to the article on my own blog.
People are going to cry about giving North Korea a hearing but they are certainly innocent until proven
guilty and their exclusion from the investigation process indicates weakness and fear of exposure in the South Korean position, which has been relying so far on a kind of international kangaroo court or media lynching. I셝 very much like to see what evidence they presented at their own press briefing recently to contrast with the 쏪IG press event of May 20. Again people will virulently impugn and dismiss them, but you can be sure both Russia and China were paying close attention to all the details of their nearer neighbor셲 case.
It셲 also important for your morale to know that South Korean citizens groups and progressive media
are banding together as we speak to get to the bottom of this particular Big Lie. Also Mr. Shin is saying he셪l use the suppressive court proceedings initiated against him to expose the whole phony deal.
Don셳 lose sight of the big picture, you셶e taken some 쐀elow-the-belt hits ? hang in there man!
211.hankyul moon, on May 30, 2010 at 11:16 am Said:
The kr.gov will keep trying to paint with dirty mentions in order to wrap this page.
In addition of that, the kr.gove will keep change their story and evidence, which is a traditional
judgment of suspicion. Many people focused on the torpedo; however, a single evidence is not correlated to the explosion. The torpedo that kr.gov presented is not proven evidence of explosion scientifically. For example, there are no proofs of thermal effects, mechanical damages by explosion, corrosion effects by salty water, and corrosion effects by heat and salty water. Only one evidence is letter 1?, written by bright blue permanent marker. Nevertheless, North kr.gov denied using 1? on machinery.

The original version of this article appears in Telepolis.
©2010 OhmyNews
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