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ROK Navy’s “Operation Dawn in the Gulf of Aden”
김진욱  2011-02-04 13:20:00, 조회 : 39,438, 추천 : 1878


No more compromises with pirates

ROK Navy’s “Operation Dawn in the Gulf of Aden”


The ultimate mission of military is to save lives. Military rescues people when their lives are in peril with their specialties and professionalism, of which military deserved to be incomparably dignified.  

Last year, Republic of Korea’s Navy had a very hard time due to the sinking of the Cheonan corvette in March and the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November. The two incidents damaged ROK Navy’s reputation and Navy personnel’s moral hit all time low. Rescuing the Samho Jewelry on January 21st, the success of Korean Navy’s Choenghae Unit’s operation in the coast of Somalia, code-named “Operation Dawn in the Gulf of Aden”, brought public acclaim to ROK Navy.

Including the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008 that killed more than 170 people, it is clear indication of global nature of terrorists’ activities. ROK Navy’s operation in the Gulf of Aden deserves attention because it rescued all of the kidnapped sailors. Unfortunately, of the South Korean captain suffered with abdominal gunshot wounds when shot by a pirate during the operation, all 21 sailors of Samho Jewelry were safely rescued and there was no damage to ROK Navy. Eight pirates were shot dead and ROK Navy captured five others alive.

What are the factors behind this successful operation? They are quite deeply related to the professionalism of the military in a democratic system. There are three factors: the right decision and leadership of commanders including the President, sophisticated weapon systems and tactics, and lastly cooperating with people. They should be well harmonized in a deadly situation so that an operation could be a success one. “Operation Dawn in the Gulf of Aden” showed the perfect synergy of the three factors.

First factor is the prompt and right decision and leadership of commanders. The Choenghae Unit belongs to the Combined Task Force (CTF)-151 of Combined Forces Maritime Component (CFMCC) under the fifth fleet command of the United States. It means that the Choenghae Unit is supposed to play joint operation as a member of the CTF. At the same time, the Choenghae Unit carries an operation itself with the United States’ air support when it escorts any ROK ship. According to the Joint Chief of Staff, ROK received intelligence from the U.S that a mother ship of pirates was coming towards the Samho Jewelry to assist the loot. It would cause more difficulty in carrying out operation when the mother ship and pirates join forces in 24 hours, so ROK’s CFC, Ministry of National Defense and the President finally decided to go-ahead with the operation.

In addition, the cooperation between the U.S aircraft patrol and ROK Lynx helicopter become a shining example of multinational operation. The U.S P-3C helped ROK to aim the target to shoot and embarked UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) soldiers on the Samho Jewelry safely. Along with ROK-U.S cooperation in intelligence, ROK was able to make quick and right decisions that resulted in ROK Navy’s successful operation.

Second factor is use of sophisticated weapon systems and tactics. It was “Kaishot”, the video transmission equipment, attached to UDT soldiers’ helmet that showed what happened in Samho Jewelry when UDT soldiers struck pirates. Kaishot was made by ROK Company and distributed to soldiers dispatched in Afghanistan and Somalia. In the underground bunker of the Ministry of National Defense of ROK, the brains of the armed forces were able to see the zone of operation precisely and find the right time for command. Same technology also assisted the U.S Central Command located in Florida, that they were able to control the operation occurred in Afghanistan. Kaishot was also attached to Lynx helicopter and guns. The video flowed from Samho Jewelry and the destroyer Choi Young and finally got to ROK.

In addition, the upgraded K-1 rifle helped soldiers to shoot the target. K-1 rifle is a typical and ordinary rifle used in military forces. However, K-1 distributed to Cheonghae Unit was specially upgraded with the rail system, dot sight and laser targeting system. On moving helicopter, it is very difficult to aim and shoot the target. However the Choenghae Unit’s soldiers had the most efficient weapon system as far as they could have.

Finally, military-civilian cooperation made the operation successful. The Ministry of National Defense of ROK released the information of the rescue operation for the Samho Jewelry to Korean news reporters on the 18th of January. At the same time, MND requested them the embargo until formal presentation from MND. Reporters abided the embargo proactively until 21st of January when Joint Chiefs of Staff held the official press conference. So far, ROK military experienced several bad cases when it carried out a secret operation to capture North Korean spies. Some media reported know-how of ROK army’s operations to the public thus unintentionally assisted North Korean spies to formulate escape routes by using their information. In other words, Disguising the right of people to know, some journalists only dreamed of their own scooping. However, the press corps cooperated with the ROK military for the benefit of hostages and national interest at this time. It was a major role in the success of the mission.

Eventually Korean Navy Cheonghae Unit carried out the operation successfully and all 21 crews were rescued safely. After Yeonpyeong Island incident, many people said that the government should protect and put priority on public safety. The ROK military responded positively this time to show their strong will to annihilate the enemies.


Kim Jinwoog
Research Scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University
President from Korea Research Institute of Military Affairs



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