September 13th, 2010
08:59 AM ET

South Korea's final word on sinking: North's torpedo blast

A final report says a torpedo caused shockwaves that sunk a South Korean ship killing 46 sailors.

South Korea on Monday released its final report on the March sinking of the warship Cheonan, reaffirming that a North Korean torpedo sent the Cheonan to the bottom of the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors.

The full report, prepared based on an investigation conducted by South Korean, U.S., Swedish, British and Australian officials, offers new details to back up May’s preliminary report on the incident.

“The ROK Navy ship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack while conducting a normal mission in the vicinity of Baengnyeong Island at 09:22 p.m. on March 26, 2010,” the English-version of the report says in its conclusion, according to a Korea Times report.

The report says the torpedo did not strike the ship, but the shockwave generated when it exploded nearby split the Cheonan in two.

"The detonation location was 3 meters to the port from the center of the gas turbine room and at a depth of 6 to 9 meters. The weapon system used was a CHT-02D torpedo with approximately 250 kilograms of explosives manufactured by North Korea." South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quotes the report as saying.

The shockwave effect is substantiated by survivors’ accounts, according to the Yonhap report.

"Forty-one survivors said that they smelled oil, but there were no witnesses of flames, fire or a water column, nor were there any injuries from these factors," Yonhap quotes the full report as saying.

Critics say the final report still leaves questions. For instance, while investigators found traces of explosives on the hull of the Cheonan, no trace of explosives was found on torpedo parts recovered from the scene.

Investigators said that could be because the torpedo parts were too small to hold trace explosives, according to a Korea Herald report.

The final report also includes communication between the captain of the Cheonan, Cmdr. Choi Won-il, and his boss, squadron commander Capt. Lee Won-bo, according to Yonhap.

"I think we've been hit by something," Choi tells Lee.

"What do you think it is?" Lee asks.

"I think it's a torpedo," Choi says.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, calling the results of the preliminary report “sheer fabrication,” according to its official Korea Central News Agency. KCNA had not yet posted any reaction to the full report.

U.S. forces during the summer conducted anti-submarine exercises with South Korea. Further exercises are planned, U.S. officials say.

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Filed under: North Korea • South Korea
soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. Isaac

    North Korea is one hell of a weird country. They pretty much like an alien living on earth.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Bystander

      Well, it's a warning to the world as to what happens when the inmates run the insane asylum instead of the doctors...

      September 14, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. garrett

    power to the people! so glad to see some open eyes...

    September 13, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Abdi

    So the countries that were investigating into the incident are pro-western, good good, not one country which could side or could be a neutral country was involved in the investigation, why wasn't Russia or China allowed to take part in the investigation? only to make it easier to plant the evidence which is now ready?
    i'm really not convinced by the whole incident, and not convinced that NK would want more lights and sanctions on them.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      They refused to take part! LOL .... Who cares.

      September 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • helion

      Sweden is the definition of neutral. As is Australia. There is no reason for them to blindly vote the line with the Western Nations. I suppose it would have been better if China would have obliged the invitation they got. Or India. Oh, what was that? Yes, China was invited to send an expert or two. But they didn't.

      September 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. EternalBliss

    This is called a perfect example of how you fake a torpedo attack.... "shockwave effect" sounds similar to "magic bullet" theory.. also..." no explosive traces on torpedo" but only on the ship.. lol.. hmmm.. with that info... how they heck would could you conclude that that particular torpedo had anything to do with the sinking.. i mean.. hmmm.. sounds like.. "sink the ship..blowit"...oh and throw that old torpedo down there.. maybe we can start some drama.. or at least add some fear factor to the scary image of NK... politics is 99% theat-tricks!!!!

    September 13, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Gordon Freeman

      Modern torpedoes do not actually strike the hull of the target and explode, like WWII torpedoes. They home in to within a short range of the target and explode, creating a shock wave and displacing the water beneath the hull, creating a giant bubble. Without the water underneath to support the ship, this the essentially snaps the spine of the ship. The damage to the Cheonan is charateristic of this. Next time, do your homework before replying.

      September 13, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      Gordon EXCELLENT response.

      September 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Gordon is right on. This so called "magic bullet theory" shockwave is just basic science. Static overpressure that will displace the water. Same happens in the atmosphere with high explosives.

      September 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • DPRK

      If I'm not mistaken, North Korea manufacturing practices are largely World War II era for most weaponry using 1950's/1960's designs. The torpedo they claimed was used was an impact torpedo, no?

      September 14, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike in WA

      DPRK They had magnetic detention devices during WW2. SO it is WW2 technology for a torpedo to explode without actually hitting the target.

      September 14, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. derek

    It was Balack Obama himself who did this!

    September 13, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Bystander

      Uh huh... Do you want a bowl of "Flied Lice" to go with that?

      September 14, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. Chow Chow

    You guys are's not that simple. If SK or US does any retaliation, you'll have 1 million chinese soldiers knocking on Seoul's doors.

    September 13, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Serge

      LOL Chow Chow, you're still living in the 1940's and 50's. The standing army of a country is pretty much irrelevant in modern warfare when it concerns countries such as China and the US because of nukes. That beind said the Chinese would not fight the US over North Korea like they did in the 50's because the 2 countries now rely on each other via trade.

      I love all the idiots that post here with the conspiracy theories which are based on 0 factual evidence just propoganda. I ask you this simple question what does Iran, North Korea, Russia and China all have in common? Simple they are all socialist, with a lot of central planning, central control. Their people live in poverty and their freedom, especially freedom of the press is largely restricted by a one party system. Think about that before believing what they claim.

      September 13, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dirigo

      Yeah and in two days time half that number would be running back to China screaming.

      September 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • History Existed Before 1940

      Serge: You need to read a bit further back and think a little harder... Trade and interdependence are not excuses for peace. In fact, Germany and France probably had the most interdependent economies and cultural exchange in all of Western Europe before the Great Wars. Look how that relationship turned out from... oh... 1914-1945.

      I keep hearing people regurgitate the wonderfully comfortable idea that countries who trade and exchange culture are more immune from picking up rocks and braining each other. It has no basis in history, politics, or even reality. Countries fight when they have something to fight over. If you want everlasting peace between two countries, then place them on opposite sides of a globe and ensure they never speak to one another.

      I don't normally post on the internet, and I doubt I will again. I just got fed up with the idiots.

      September 14, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    I bet it was the Irainians. This takes a lot of heat off of their nuclear program and keeps the West busy.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bob

    Gordon Freeman, you better do your homework, WW2 Torpedoes hat depht settings that allowed them to run under the ships and explode when they felt the magnetic field of the steel hull, thus breakingn the back of the ship. The idea to explode the war head not in contact with, but away from the ship, is far from new.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gordon Freeman

      OK, so I'm not fully up to speed on older WWII warheads; maybe I should have said World War 1 instead. But my statement about the mechanism of detonation of modern torpedoes is correct, which was the point I was trying to make.

      September 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      Ugh Bob,

      You'd better re-read your history. Early WWII torpdoes were in fact called "Contact" torpedoes meaning that the weapon did actually strike the target. Mariners could change the depth of the torpedo runs for a deeper, more impactful strike.

      Later in the war, torpedo's were generally set to "Magnetic Influence+Contact" to maximize the chances of a hit on a target. Yes, magnetic influence torpedoes did see their time in WWII, but they weren't the only option.

      The fact is, you both are correct with your posts, however fragmented they may be.


      September 13, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Michael: Good info, but you have it backwards. The magnetic influence triggers were used at the beginning of the war with dismal results. It was discovered by enterprising sub skippers disobeying orders and disconnecting the magnetic exploder. When they began using the contact exploder our sinking success skyrocketed. Look up "Mark 14 torpedo" on Wikipedia.

      September 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike in WA

      Bill is right in that Mark 14s where used since the beginning of the war but they were only used in newer boats and had a severe shortage of them. Not to mention that they also ran deeper then they were supposed to, had problems with the contact detonator, and sometimes failed to straighten out as programed.

      September 13, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • vince

      i also agree with jim

      September 14, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Muggie2

    While the report seems pretty conclusive, one anomaly stands out. If the torpedo parts they had found were of the torpedo that did this, they *would* have explosives residue on them. I don't doubt that NK would happily fire warshots at SK vessels (they have in the past and will again), but I'm not completely convinced on this particular incident.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Richard


    September 13, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andrew

    N. Korea has cannons (think 2nd century tech) that can lob nukes at Seoul. If ANYONE were to even think counter attack, millions of south Koreans would die in minutes. No to mention the U.S. armed forces at the DMZ.

    Attacking North Korea isn't as easy as you think. They have had their weapons at the ready since the end of the Korean war.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • helion

      And we have had time to develop counter measures. As ready as North Korea may be, they suffer from the same issues that China's "New" military suffers from. No conflict experience. No true veteran support and training. When the time comes, they will not know what to do with themselves. We have 3 Tomahawk laden Ohio Subs in South Korean Waters. Each Sub is capable of precisely striking 462 targets within minutes of each other. Not to mention the George Washington Carrier battlegroup. I don't think I need to give you the statistics on that bad boy. No, Korea would not stand long on it's Artillery bombardment of Seoul.

      September 13, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • helion

      Error in my last post. I meant to say that the group of Ohio's could strike that many. Each individual sub has 154 Tomahawks.

      September 13, 2010 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay

      Indirectly, China does have conflict experience dating to the 70's in which they invaded Vietnam and got their heads handed to them by a much smaller and dedicted, trained, and willful force. They also got their heads handed to them by the Indians in border conflicts that they always initially started yet never could get away from fast enough. Their problem?? Outdated command and control, outdated manuvuers and planning. They have had thirty yrs to modernize, buildup and replenish, however in real world warfare, we hold the edge, even if it is because we are belligerent and push back, usually and most times regrettfully, first. However, do not discount China's nor North Koreas knowledge of the same fact. Neither will do anything, much preferring the status quo.

      September 13, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noob

      Note the fact that if china were to get into the war
      1, nukes would destroy SK pretty quickly
      2, even if they don't launch nukes, they have some pretty sophisticated anti-ship technology
      the carrier group could be down pretty quickly
      and the chinese are insane soldiers
      during the korean war, we had the upper hand in technology, no doubt
      they overran position after position until they overextended themselves with a pyrrhic victory in some basin
      a tech advantage won't stand long unless both countries go to nukes

      September 13, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ivan

    It's not that simple matter, if that's your own country.
    too much blood spilled in Korean War(1950).
    they won't risk it again.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Ivan, they have been happily buterching each other for decades ... you would not risk it .... they don't care....

      September 13, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bill

    Okay, you all are wrong, It was Bush and Chenney..... they have done everything else that is wrong in the world.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wow

    N. Korea is left alone because of relations with China. The U.S. is trying to be diplomatic and encourage China to manage N.K. The problem is China will have port/water access to the east via N.K.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. LetsTry Reason

    09/08 news

    "Only three out of 10 South Koreans trust the findings of an international inquiry into the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan that blamed a North Korean torpedo attack."

    September 13, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
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