The South Korean public’s ‘historic sense of fraternity with the North’ holds . . .
South Korea’s foreign minister on Wednesday [May 19th] publicly blamed North Korea for torpedoing one of its warships, which sank on March 26 with the loss of 46 lives.
A day later a report in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing unidentified government officials, said that fragments of a torpedo propeller found near the site are similar to parts from a North Korean torpedo that South Korea obtained seven years ago. A serial number on the torpedo propeller was written in a font typically used in North Korea, and traces of explosives found in the wreckage resemble the gunpowder used in that torpedo.
However, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the reports.
In Washington, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell said on Wednesday that he couldn’t talk about the report’s conclusions until it is released. “The United States has been deeply and actively involved in all aspects of the investigation, and the United States strongly supports its conclusions,” Campbell said.
But the Financial Times reports there has been no outpouring of public rage against Pyongyang and that the loss of the warship has exposed South Koreans’ mistrust of whatever the government says and a historic sense of fraternity with the North, feelings that can override strategic dangers.
“The government seems to be hiding something. If not, why did it take so long to announce the conclusion?” said Bae Sung-hoon, a 37-year-old office worker.
Many ordinary South Koreans say that their government is merely seeking a convenient scapegoat for what was a mistake on the part of the South’s navy, or what was a “friendly fire” incident involving the US military.