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Govt. reverses decision on fresh probe into deadly Cheonan ship sinking

A bereaved family member of one of the 46 South Korean sailors killed in the torpedoing of the warship Cheonan by an infiltrating North Korean submarine within South Korean territorial waters in the West Sea on March 26, 2010, sheds tears in front of a grave at the National Cemetery in Daejeon, 164 kilometers south of Seoul, on March 25, 2021, one day ahead of the incident's anniversary. (Yonhap)
A bereaved family member of one of the 46 South Korean sailors killed in the torpedoing of the warship Cheonan by an infiltrating North Korean submarine within South Korean territorial waters in the West Sea on March 26, 2010, sheds tears in front of a grave at the National Cemetery in Daejeon, 164 kilometers south of Seoul, on March 25, 2021, one day ahead of the incident's anniversary. (Yonhap)

A presidential commission decided Friday not to reinvestigate the 2010 deadly sinking of a South Korean warship by North Korea, overturning an earlier decision amid outrage among surviving crew and bereaved family members.

In December last year, the Presidential Truth Commission on Deaths in the Military decided to revisit the case in which the warship Cheonan went down near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, on March 26, 2010, killing 46 sailors.

After an extensive probe by the joint investigation group involving international experts, South Korea concluded that the sinking was caused by a torpedo attack by a North Korean submarine.

But Shin Sang-cheol, a former member of the probe team, filed a petition in September last year to open a fresh probe, claiming that the government manipulated the incident, and the commission accepted his demand.

The case was made public belatedly on Thursday, sparking outrage among surviving members of the warship and families of the fallen service members, and the commission held an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the issue.

"After holding a plenary session, the seven-member board unanimously decided to dismiss the petition, as the case fails to meet conditions required for a new probe," the commission said in a release.

Such a petition can be accepted in the case it is raised by witnesses or those who directly listened to the witnesses.

"We judged last year that Shin met those conditions. After an in-depth review and discussions, however, we found him disqualified," a commission official said.

The bereaved families expressed relief over the latest decision but said those who initially decided to reinvestigate the case should be disciplined

"The commission failed to ask the opinions of the bereaved families and the surviving members in the process of its preliminary review," Min Kwang-ki, one of the bereaved families, said, demanding an apology. (Yonhap)

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