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Dokdo Swimmer: “Fellow Koreans Gave Us Strength”

Posted August. 15, 2005 03:05,   


“Sung-woong and Sung-mo, come here. This is such an achievement. Let’s give some cheers.”

Korea’s famous swimmer Cho Oh-ryun (53), nicknamed “Asian Seal,” and his two sons succeeded in swimming from Ullung Island to Dokdo in 18 hours. They reached Dokdo at 6:58 a.m. on August 13.

After stepping ashore on Dokdo’s gravel beach, Cho got emotional. He waved the Taegeuk flag, the national flag, and gave three cheers with his eldest son Sung-woong (23), a former UDT member, and Sung-mo (20), a swimmer on the national team.

“I didn’t swim all on my own. Fellow Koreans gave me strength. Koreas have been infuriated by Japan’s sovereignty claim to Dokdo. I am happy that what my sons and I did could offer some comfort to Koreans,” Cho said.

The biggest danger to these swimmers was the cold current. When they left for Dokdo, the seawater temperature was warm at 26 degrees. But soon they had to swim through a cold current.

Sung-mo, the first swimmer, was supposed to swim for eight hours, but he was not able to hold out in the cold water for more than four hours. The next was Sung-woong. He, too, had to get out of the water after two hours of swimming because he did not warm up enough. Following his two sons, Cho Oh-ryun jumped into the water.

Watching his father swimming for more than six hours, Sung-woong and Sung-mo renewed their determination and swam in turn.

“After some time, I felt stung by jellyfish. I was so delighted. Jellyfish live in subtropical waters. So the appearance of them is a sign that you are close to a warm current.”

Their crossing took six hours less, upsetting the expectation that it would take a full day. Cho said, “We planned to take a parabolic course, which is 30km longer than the 87.4km straight course between Ullung Island and Dokdo, to take advantage of the warm current. We met it earlier and were able to swim along an almost straight-line course to Dokdo.”

With just one kilometer to go, all three Chos left the safety net and swam together toward Dokdo.

Cho Oh-ryun added the achievement of crossing between Ullung Island and Dokdo to his record of successes. He crossed the Straits of Korea in 1980, the Strait of Dover in 1982, and the Straits of Korea again in 2002. In 2003, he swam for 700ri (approximately 275km) in the Han River. When asked about his next goal, he replied, “If North Korea gives me permission, I would like to swim along the Daedong River.”

Their feat was aired on MBC-ESPN, a cable sports channel, as a special program in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Independence Day of Korea. The program was televised live for 24 hours under the title, “Dokdo Arirang by Cho Oh-ryun and His Two Sons.”