S. Korea to launch special audit into military's handling of ship sinking

May 1, 2010 12:10 pm 

SEOUL, April 30 — South Korea will launch a special audit next week into the military's handling of the deadly sinking of a naval ship, the state audit agency said Friday, amid allegations of a sloppy response to the worst peacetime naval disaster in the country's history.

Twenty-nine auditors specializing in defense affairs will start investigating the defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Naval Operations Command as well as military units involved in the disaster from Monday, the Board of Audit and Inspection said.

The 1,200-ton Cheonan patrol ship broke in two and sank in waters near North Korea on March 26 after an unexplained explosion that killed 46 sailors.

A funeral for them was held Thursday, and a team of investigators, including foreign experts, has been scrutinizing the wreckage to determine the cause amid suspicions of a North Korean attack.

The focus of the audit will be whether the military chain of command and crisis-management system worked properly after the sinking, whether officers followed standard procedures when reporting the incident, and whether they reported the situation as it was, officials said.

The military has been under criticism following revelations that military authorities did not report to the president until 20 minutes after becoming aware the incident.

They also initially gave the public different times for when the sinking actually occurred.

Also subject to the audit will be why rescue efforts were delayed, whether there were any gaps or loose discipline in the military command at the time of the incident, and other media allegations, including whether the military withheld information deemed key to finding out what exactly happened.

The audit will be intensive to produce an outcome as early as possible, board officials said.

"We will identify and analyze problems with the military's crisis response system to determine what is responsible for the poor early response, while at the same time trying to come up with ways to improve the system," an official said. (PNA/Yonhap)

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