What I learned 2 years after the Cheonan sinking

I clearly remember when I first received the news 2 years ago—I was in a KTX train heading to Daegu, at which my last assignment was. Then I was so easy that I had stopped counting how many days left with my mandatory military service. Before I left Seoul, I gave a goodbye kiss to my girlfriend in a platform at the Seoul station.

It was near Daejeon, I guess, when a strange line saying “a military ship sunk in the East Sea” appeared on a in-cabin LCD screen. I felt so weird but I didn’t think it would be an offensive from the North—there was no reason to do that at the moment , it seemed.

As you can possibly imagine, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the Cheonan sinking: disputes over whom to blame, the cause of the sinking, contradictory evidences and conspiracy theories, cries of the bereaved and lies of the government debunked, etc. And above all, this still is the present progressive tense.

I am not in a position to judge which one is true or false, there are tons of evidences conflicting with one another and they seem to be a bit manipulated by the presenter’s own political slant. Hence it is hard to believe things prima facie. Anyway, I learned something by last 2 years.

Still I think there are lots of things can be disputed to the official announcement of the government and its arguments. So I was quite shocked when a famed defense blogger Galrahn said that the objectors to the official announcement are like the 9/11 truthers and the birthers. Were they so stubborn and their points so ridiculous?

But soon I realized that there are not much information and objections in English. Almost all of the objections and disputes were only confined to the Korean-speaking communities. In other words, the media is not doing their job properly.

Newspapers are still affecting a lot to the public opinion but many of them are so politically inclined even to the extent of ignoring journalism ethics—manipulating the facts, glossing things over. Do you remember the Chosun reporting of a human torpedo that might sink down the Cheonan right after the incident? As you can read from a tone of this Wired Danger Room post about the Chosun report, this is just ridiculous. Can you believe that this is from the nation’s number one newspaper? They don’t usually provide their stupidest articles in English but for some reason I will never understand, they decided to provide it in English.

Foreign bloggers and media outlets who don’t have their own correspondents or sources heavily reply upon the major Korean media but they don’t tell you everything they actually reports in Korean. If you manage yourself to read their editorials, you would be shocked by their arrogance and intolerance—especially the Chosun, I mean. The problem is that I have almost never seen a foreign blogger or defense magazine citing any other than the Chosun. All the quite meaningful and legitimate dispute and objections are confined in a language barrier. That’s one of the reasons why I started blogging in (terrible) English.

Above all, the Cheonan sinking is not, as the US beef protest in 2008 wasn’t merely about the beef itself as well, merely about what was the cause or whom to blame. At stake was a basic attitude of the government to the people and the government, again, horribly failed us as it did in 2008: incompetence and lies soon to be debunked, only to undermine its reliability. Those who are responsible for the sinking in our armed forces have been even promoted rather than being punished, while military judicial officers, who submitted an appeal to the constitutional court that the military banning some subversivebooks is violating human rights, were suspended from their duty and some of them were even discharged (later the court ruled the discharge to be illegal however). How could the people trust the government and the military?

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