The team examining the bow section of the salvaged Cheonan released news over the weekend that it believes the vessel was probably sunk by a “non-contact” underwater explosion.
During a briefing held by the Ministry of National Defense on Sunday, April 25th, Yoon Duk Yong, co-head of the joint civilian-military investigation team, explained, “Based on the results of a visual investigation of the interior and exterior of the ship, the cause is judged to be an underwater explosion.”
Yoon added, “The location and power of the explosion will be analyzed through a more detailed investigation and simulation.”
He commented, “Judging by the torn, bent condition of the section, the possibility of the sinking being caused by an underwater explosion is high. There is no evidence of soot or melting caused by an explosion in the interior or on the exterior of the ship, and also there is no hole, which leads to the conclusion of a non-contact explosion.”
“There was no damage to the ammo dump or fuel tanks, the sheathing on the electric wiring is fine, and no interior materials were burned, meaning that the possibility of it having been an internal explosion does not exist,” he went on.
He also added, “There is no evidence of scraping on the bottom of the ship and the sonar dome is fine, which confirms that the vessel did not run aground.” Furthermore, “The bow section is complicatedly transformed which indicates that the possibility of fatigue failure is nil.”
Regarding a reporter’s question about the location of the explosion, Park Jung Yi, a second co-head of the investigating team and head of the military’s Capability Improvement Team explained, “We assume that the explosion took place underwater at port below the turbine room. Approximately ten meters of the gas turbine room was swept way, so the pressure was applied from below port and received on the right side. This tells us why port was swept away and starboard was damaged.”
Park further elaborated, “The explosion must have taken place near port, which caused the impact and pressure to bend the bottom of the ship upward. The pressure was strong enough to bend the keel, which is the backbone of the ship, upward.”
He stated, “There is no hole, and the bottom of the ship is bent, so we can assume that the cut was caused by pressure rather than by contact or being shot.”
Therefore, he concluded, “The cause is likely to have been a mine or torpedo, however, the exact cause requires further analysis and review.”