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Opposition Keeps Doubting Cheonan Probe Results

Posted June. 17, 2010 12:40,   


The main opposition party keeps questioning the joint investigation team’s announcement that the South Korean naval ship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack nearly a month after the probe results came out.

The leaders and members of the Democratic Party keep raising suspicions over the finding that the North was responsible, saying they are unconvinced by the investigation results.

Party lawmaker Choi Moon-soon spoke on a radio talk show Wednesday and raised a number of suspicions. He said the probability that the North did it is like that of shooting five straight holes-in-one in golf.

On why he doubts the investigation results, he said the South Korean military has barred lawmakers from interviewing Cheonan survivors and refuses to disclose data on the ship’s navigation routes and communication records.

The military, however, has said several times that the survivors have been reassigned to naval units of their choice and that interviews with them are possible upon request. Several of the survivors have agreed to interviews with media, including The Dong-A Ilbo.

Military authorities also said they released command strategy networks and the Korea Navy Tactical Data System when Democratic Party lawmakers visited the Defense Ministry in April. Legislators were briefed on the logs of international distress calls, safety and calling frequency.

Choi reiterated the argument that the "No. 1" written on the torpedo’s propeller was supposed to be erased or marred by heat from the explosion. The investigation team, however, said the heat from the explosion was not directly transmitted to the propeller because the underwater explosion did not make contact with the ship.

The team also said the No. 1 marking was on the rust preventive paint of a similar color to stainless steel and that the painted side was not damaged by the heat, leaving the marking intact.

Choi demanded a government explanation to clear all suspicions. Accordingly, the military has proposed holding a debate with those who remain unconvinced, yet the doubters have yet to respond to the offer.

The Democratic Party’s leadership said President Lee Myung-bak was the first to deny North Korea’s involvement in the sinking. At a meeting of the party’s supreme council Wednesday, Chairman Chung urged President Lee to explain his initial denial.

The chief executive, however, never said the North was not responsible for the sinking. On March 28 and 30, he said all possibilities should be considered but urged against hastily jumping to a conclusion.

The Democratic Party also said the president’s hard-line stance on the incident caused stock value of 29 trillion won (23.9 billion U.S. dollars) to evaporate. Party floor leader Park Jie-won said Wednesday, “While the incumbent administration says its two predecessors provided 1.35 billion won (1.1 million U.S. dollars) in cash to North Korea over 10 years, it lost 29 trillion won overnight.”

The aggregate value of stocks listed on the Korea Exchange plunged 24.4 trillion won (20 billion dollars) May 25 from 897.39 trillion won (740.4 billion dollars) the day before when the president delivered a speech on his tough stance against the North. The value increased 11.48 trillion won (9.4 billion dollars) May 26 and reached 931.23 trillion won (768.3 billion U.S. dollars) Tuesday.

An executive at a major domestic brokerage said cash given to the North is a loss, but that declines in the appraised value of stocks are unrealized losses. “If we follow the Democratic Party’s logic, the value of South Korean stocks has risen more than 50 trillion won (41.3 billion U.S. dollars) since President Lee’s speech,” he said.

mhpark@donga.com jin0619@donga.com