The Sinking of ROKS Cheonan: A Detailed Analysis

The sinking of ROKS Cheonan, a South Korean Pohang-class corvette, stands as a significant event in the maritime history of the Korean peninsula. This tragic incident, which took place on March 26, 2010, claimed the lives of 46 South Korean sailors and remains a point of contention between the two Koreas to this day. Here’s a comprehensive review of the events surrounding the ROKS Cheonan sinking.

The 2010 sinking of ROKS Cheonan, caused by a North Korean torpedo according to investigations, strained inter-Korean relations.

The Incident

On the evening of March 26, 2010, the ROKS Cheonan was patrolling waters off the coast of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea when an unexpected explosion caused the ship to split into two. The vessel carried 104 crew members, out of which 58 were rescued from the cold waters. Sadly, the remaining 46 lost their lives.

Immediate efforts were directed towards rescuing survivors and initiating search and recovery missions for the missing sailors. As the disaster unfolded, it was evident that the event was no ordinary accident.

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Investigation and Findings

The South Korean government assembled a team of national and international experts from the United States, Australia, Canada, the UK, and Sweden for a thorough investigation. After a multi-faceted examination, including salvage operations that recovered large portions of the sunken ship, the team released its report on May 20, 2010.

The report concluded that a torpedo had caused the explosion. Further, it stated that the torpedo was of North Korean origin, specifically noting the recovery of parts consistent with the North Korean-manufactured CHT-02D torpedo, including propulsion parts and a steering section that bore Korean Hangul script, which appeared to match that on a previously obtained North Korean example.

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North Korea’s Denial

Despite the international team’s findings, North Korea vehemently denied any involvement in the incident. They argued that the results were a fabrication, claiming that South Korea was conspiring against them with the United States and other Western powers. North Korea also demanded that they be allowed to conduct their own investigation into the incident, a request which South Korea denied.

International Reaction and Aftermath

The incident significantly strained the already tense inter-Korean relations. Many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and others, officially condemned North Korea based on the findings of the investigation.

In July 2010, the United Nations Security Council made a Presidential Statement condemning the attack but, due to objections from China and Russia, did not explicitly name North Korea as the perpetrator.

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The sinking of ROKS Cheonan and its aftermath resulted in South Korea severing most of its trade links with North Korea. South Korea also initiated a series of military exercises with the United States as a show of force and solidarity.


The sinking of the ROKS Cheonan is a somber reminder of the fragile peace that holds on the Korean peninsula. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, this event remains a critical point of discord in inter-Korean relations. The tragic loss of 46 sailors has left an indelible mark on South Korea and its military, serving as a sobering reminder of the ever-present tension in this geopolitically critical region.

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