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Defense Minister encourages officers and personnel who participa...

Defense Minister encourages officers and personnel who participated in an operation to search for and salvage a North Korean rocket

On Friday, July 14, Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup encouraged the participants of a search and rescue operation to salvage sunken debris from a failed North Korean rocket launch. The event was attended by 12 people including commanders and soldiers, Navy deep sea divers, UDT personnel, and ship servicemen.

This operation took place for 36 days from May 31 to July 5, with participation of Navy ships, aircraft, and deep sea divers.

Minister Lee had a meal with them, listened to their stories and expressed appreciation for their achievement.

Sergeant Shin Kyung-joon, a deep sea diver engaged in the underwater recovery work, said, “The operation was extremely difficult due to strong currents in the West Sea and limited visibility. During work at the seabed, the mud was knee-high, and due to the muddy water obscuring my vision, I had to grope around the object. Fortunately, I had performed a few preliminary drills on land with my eyes closed before diving. Thanks to the physical strength I diligently cultivated, I was able to overcome these challenges.”

UDT Sergeant First Class Park Ki-deok, who was responsible for underwater demolition, said, “Several rounds of rehearsals on land and underwater with a simulated model similar to the recovered rocket were very helpful. Doing exercises like an actual situation was the basis for this successful operation.”

ROKS Gyeonggi serviceman Sergeant First Class Son Kwon-hee, who first arrived at the site, attempted to approach and salvage the rocket using a rapid inflatable boat (RIB). “When I saw part of the object about 2 meters in the water, I thought I could easily recover it,” he said, “but I thought it was too big to lift right away. I did rope binding work and installed buoys from the RIB onto it to prevent it from sinking. The greatest challenges were the inclement weather, strong tidal currents, and the constant risk of it sinking at any time.”

Colonel Kang Seong-won, commander of Sea Salvage & Rescue Unit (SSU), said, “I was a bit worried because many junior officers were engaged in the operation, and to my surprise, they looked determined as the operation proceeded and completed the mission successfully. They were particularly proud because, unlike their colleagues, they had successfully completed their mission through engagement in an actual operation.”

Minister Lee said, “I am proud that your perfect operation, from search to salvage, demonstrated the South Korean military's excellent mission performance capabilities. This sends a message to our people and the world. I thank all of you who faithfully performed your duties during the 36-day operation.”


  • (Presentation and Follow-on discussion)