New Study Claims Cheonan Sinking Caused by Mine, Not Torpedo

the bow section of the Cheonan warship

A new study claims that the sinking of the Cheonan warship was caused by an underwater mine explosion and not, as was originally suggested, by a torpedo. The incident was frequently alleged by liberals to be a hoax of the Lee Myung-bak administration because it contributed to the rationalisation of the administration’s policy toward North Korea.

Liberal newspapers such as the Hankyoreh, where this article was originally published, have tried hard to debunk the conclusions of the joint investigative report; however, as netizens comment below, opinion still seems to be divided along political lines.

From Hankyoreh:

‘Mine explosion is  likely cause of sinking of Cheonan,’ foreign research claims

Research in an international journal claims that the sinking of the Cheonan warship in March 2010 was highly likely to have been caused by an abandoned mine that was planted by the [South] Korean Navy. It is the second research paper that has studied the cause of the incident since Professor Hong Hae-kyung (Earth system science) disclosed a report that analyses the seismic waves and effectively supports the conclusions of the joint investigative team.

The head of the Korea seismological Institute Kim So-gu and Dr. Yefim Gitterman from the Geophysical Institute of Israel (GII) revealed the findings in a report in an international journal, ‘Pure and Applied Geophysics.’ The report claims that there must have been an underwater explosion that triggered a tremor with a scale of 2.04, which is in line with 136 kilogram of TNT explosive effect; an amount that is exactly the same amount in explosives the Navy used when planting land control mines during the 1970s—that have been since abandoned.

With regards to the cause of the underwater explosion, the research team analysed underwater explosion models, equations and simulations to estimate the amount of explosives and determine the cycle of gas bubbles. Underwater explosions trigger bubbles that rapidly expand and shrink repeatedly; the cycle of one expansion-contraction which damages the ship in such an explosion is called the ‘Bubble Cycle.’ The Bubble Cycle is a value to find  the depth of an explosion as well as the amount of explosives; in this case, the team calculated the value as 0.990 seconds.

As they hypothesised, using various combinations of explosive quantities and depths, the team found that 136 kilogram of TNT and an 8-metre deep explosion seems to best suit Bubble Cycle obtained from the data observed. But according to the research, as the team reports, 250 kilogram of TNT seems at odds with the observed data.

The possibility of a ‘land control mine’ explosion was fairly reviewed by the joint investigative team. According to the joint investigation report published in 2010, the Navy planted land control mines dotted around the Northwest islands region in 1977; they nullified those mines by cutting firing wires and abandoned the ‘bodies’ as the mines were deemed no longer necessary. The joint investigative team excluded the possibility of mine explosion, saying ‘The region where the sinking happened has a land control mine situated in 47 metre deep waters with 136kg of explosives, which is not strong enough to break the ship in half.’

Prof Kim said, ‘The joint investigation report does not fully reflect the basics of underwater explosions and bubble dynamics. We have to re-investigate the case to make sure the conclusion is scientific and reasonable as other possibilities arise.’

Meanwhile, an associate from the Ministry of Defence dismissed the possibility of a mine explosion, saying ‘It is a proven fact that the Cheonan ship was torpedoed by the North after months of investigation by experts from various nations’ and ‘moreover,  decisive proof, a torpedo propeller, was found at the scene.’

Comments from Nate:


Does anyone believe that a North Korean submergence vehicle secretly infiltrated and torpedoed a South Korean ship during Korea-US joint military exercises and safely went back to the North? They say it was torpedoed yet no one saw a water pillar and the victims have no external traumas; their so called ‘proof’ looks at least 30 years old with ‘ number one ’ written with a permanent marker on it. Would you buy into this? There are a number of absurdities around this case which I’m not gonna discuss here. Ask anyone who has enlisted in the Navy and they’d find it hilarious. I believe the truth will come out eventually.


Is there anyone stupid enough to still believe that the sinking was the North’s fault??


The thing is, there are those people who still believes what the government said.. What a successful deception.


Who are the culprits behind these organisations, individuals and broadcasting networks? <SBS-North Korea’s fault/ torpedo investigation team from various nations-North Korea’s fault/the presidents of allied nations-North Korea’s fault/MBC-North Korea’s fault/KBS-North Korea’s fault/Conservative newspapers-North Korea’s fault/CNN-North Korea’s fault/CCTV-North Korea’s fault/Asahi-North Korea’s fault/YTN-North Korea’s fault/the US government-North Korea’s fault/UN-North Korea’s fault/Daum Agora, Nate, the Democratic United Party-the Korean government’s fault>


I knew this article was going to be from either Hankyoreh or OhmyNews


It would be freaking ridiculous to believe this report. I was in the Navy when the incident happened; my fellow sailors laughed when the incident first happened, saying ‘what kind of moron would crash the boat into a rock?’ I mean, we go there every day. And don’t you know what minesweeper is? The ship is dedicated to mine searching, and you think they didn’t make sure the route is mine-free, even though it’s a frequently visited region? Hey you guys, say ‘ Kim Jong-ill is a son of a bitch .’


a-hyu Red-Hankyoreh is living up to its expectations.


This newspaper is so going to write crap about the ship being caught by seaweed and broken in half.


In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve. – Alexis de Tocqueville.


The most up-voted comments seem absurd. What’s the president gonna get by killing Koreans?? I’m just curious, seriously. If you wanna say that crap then make sure it’s perfect, Ha! ke ke ke There are a lot of morons on Nate.


I’m worried that there’re too many spies in the South.


Ah, Hankyoreh, again? Oh I’m so sick of this.. When is it gonna stop this nonsense? They said it was a collision with a rock, and then ‘mistake bombing’ by our own military force… Now what, our abandoned mines? I heard the North Koreans are treating those culprits of the incident like heroes. Are they faking fucking hard that they have nothing to do with it? Mmm. I wonder what might be the next excuse. Since relations between Korea and Japan are deteriorating, Japanese submergence vehicle might be a suitable candidate.


Does North Korea deserve the blame? The blame should go to corrupted scientists who try to cover 99% of truth with the 1% of possibility.


Hankyoreh really needs to stop breaking this nation apart. It’s absurd to blame the North whilst claiming that the Navy blew up its own people and ship. Does this makes sense for you? Seriously, you leftists have got to stop this.


I guess we’re gonna see more of this type of research coming up, embarrassing the whole nation. a-hyu how classy is that.


It didn’t smell like explosives; there weren’t any water pillars; we haven’t found shrapnel; no single sand lance was killed at the scene; those who were actually killed didn’t seem to have severe external injuries; the survivors have their eardrums intact, as were fluorescent lights on the ship. Explosion? Explosion in my ass! There’s plenty of evidences to prove it ran aground on a rock.


Oh Hankyoreh, you’re so predictable. Aren’t you gonna stop publishing?


You just don’t give up, do you? D you not get tired of saying this crap?? Now it’s our abandoned mines.. Oh please tsk tsk tsk.. Rock collision sounded more convincing.


Science can’t explain what happened to the Cheonan but conservative newpapers, the Saenuri party, and the government can! We’ll see how long the government’s claims persist once this administration’s over!!


Oh Hankyoreh hasn’t given up on this case ke ke ke Fighting Hankyoreh ke ke ke Cheer up! ke ke ke The commies lost their upper hand so they’re playing same-old Cheonan conspiracy card again. ke ke ke ke

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  • asdf

    Collision with rocks

  • Brett Sanbon

    So… When’s the apology to North Korea happening? Hillary should be there for good measure.

    • mr. wiener


    • k

      Never. If I learned anything about Koreans and asians in general, saving face is possibly one of the most important things ever in their culture. SK will never admit they were wrong to NK, too much nationalistic pride mixed with a superiority complex going on down south.

  • Yu Bumsuk

    The problem with conspiracy theories is that they usually can’t come together with a common, plausible story, and often miss more likely possibilities. Take 9/11 – people claim all sorts of amazing things while overlooking the possibility that the CIA simply let al Qaeda get away with it because another Pearl Harbor was so useful at the time. Likewise is it possible that SK did all sorts of things we don’t know about to provoke NK while sacrificing a small ship put in harm’s way?

    In any event I’m sure there are lots of Korean leftests who wouldn’t want a reunification that would entail NK records becoming open to the public.

  • Gabrielle

    Leftover bomb.

    The 1번 piece look like a set-up, which, along with the heavy repetition of “the North Korean did it” by the media (instead of the original report “there’s a high possibility that…”), made almost every South Korean convinced.
    I pity North Korean, somehow. How frustrated at South Korea must they be.

  • 참을 수 없는 존재의 가벼움

    The South Korean military culpable

    If the warship was sunken by a torepdo from North Korea, the South Korean military’s combat preparedness is in need of overall overhaul. On the other hand, if the newly emerging argument of mine explosion casuing the incident, the military should be equally held responsible for wrong ways of disposing mines.

    The Korean military is too outdated, cumbersome, inefficient. The only thing in which it excel is to make what is actually sub standard appears to be fairly good. This kind of window dressing ranges from administrative affairs to field training and to maintainence of military machinery. The elaborate hoax to avoid low grades from inspection from above unit–what we call 가라–is uniquitous in the military. Men who completed a two year grueling mandatory military service know how vulnerable the military’ capability to launch an operation.

    From observing the reluctance to take military reforms after shameful setbacks in a series of military provocations from the increasingly erratic North, the South Korean military is a whitle elephant for this nation, not a protective force.

  • Paul M

    Whether it’s a torpedo or a rouge sea mine drifting loose, I’m surprised that incompetent officers and a poorly trained crew haven’t had the spotlight of criticism shone on them.

  • 참을 수 없는 존재의 가벼움

    Another revelation concerning the South Korean military is that despite its reputation of having one of the largest army at about 600,000 military personnel, they are working in dire conditions.

    For example, the average monthly salary of private soldiers ranges from 60,000 (roughly $60) to 100,000 won (roughly $100). What draws attention is, however, they are mostly deployed in daytime for labor work like barracks maintainence, building strong points against enemy with muddy bricks and grass while they are also manned in gurading posts. Judging from the civilian world, their physical burden of work is enomorous, to the point that if they work in society with the same working intensity, they will earn at least 1500,000 won (roughly $1500) a month. Plus, dont forget the assaults and bullying, which is decreasing though, and subsequent suicides.

    Moving into a broad picture of the military, it has focused too much on the army in disregard of Navy and Air force. This skewed emphasis is of course a reflection of North Korea’s military threats but result also from political maneuvering of South Korea’s former military dictatorship, which increased the posts of army general to obtain military allegiance to the illegimate regimes.

    The cold war era military strategy is also an contributing factor to a bloated army. With an emphasis on the number of military personnel than its quality, the military has valued to mobilize men, leaving the back door open for those with connections to the powerful, whose children have been exempted from militaru service or transferred to an “idle unit.” There is the phrase “the son of God”, used when we called a man evaded military service via horsetrading.

    Retaining the massive army means that a considerable amount of military budget goes to clothing, feeding soliders and purchasing disposable items, which lead naturally to poor treatment in salaries and poorly resourced military units.

    Although it is certaij that North Korea is a real threat unless it walk into democratic fold with market economy, it is increasingly concerned that a rising China is pushing its military clout outward and still powerful Japan is attempting for the return to militarism.

    Changing security landscape requires South Korea to develop a leaner armed force with strengthened capabilities for joint operations of the Army, Navy and Air force. The warship’s sinking, whatever its cause is, should serve as an alarm for an faltering national armed force.

    • Ruaraidh

      The era of conscript armies is well and truly gone, even Russia is trying to move to a professional military.

  • mouse

    I always knew it was LMB bullshit.

    • Chris

      trusting hankyoreh to give balanced reporting on issues under the LMB administration is like going to worldnetdaily and expecting to see a fair appraisal of obamacare

  • This story is trying to (rightly) bring South and North together. Yes, it was definitely torpedo. But for peace and reconciliation, let’s move on. We have been here with Margaret Thatcher and the “Genral Belgrano”. Unless people move on the story will hurt one side or another.

  • Chris

    Old story with new update, thought it was relevant. I have personal confirmation that the North Koreans did it, which is why I find all the conspiracy stuff funny (if understandable given right-wing politics in Korea).

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