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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

The Mine Theory Lives! More Cheonan

by | September 25th, 2012 | 07:00 am

Several weeks ago, we posted on a new technical paper that contends that the Cheonan may have been sunk by a mine after all. The Russian investigation team advanced this theory at the time, apparently based on tangled line in the ship’s propeller that could have dragged a mine up. My colleague Marc Noland subsequently reported on stories about loose North Korean landmines. Needless to say, the KCNA picked up the thread on September 2, calling for a “comprehensive reinvestigation.”

Also not surprisingly, Hankyoreh, long skeptical of the Multilateral Civilian-Military Joint Investigation Group report on the Cheonan, has also aggressively been working the story. In a long feature on the issue, the newspaper claims to have located an unnamed electrical engineer saying that “three or four” explosions have occurred since 1979 in the vicinity of where the Cheonan sank. The source claims these might be traced to land control mines modeled after USFK Mark-6 depth charges.

The newspaper also reports that the South Korean Ministry of Defense believed the technical paper by Drs. Kim and Gitterman was worthy of a rebuttal, and released a statement on August 29 refuting the study. Not surprisingly, the paper’s authors were not convinced with the Ministry’s response and are sticking by their findings. We have long been skeptical of the Cheonan skeptics, but the story refuses to die.