OJ Simpson and the Cheonan

North Korea may well have sunk the Cheonan, as concluded by the South Korean military-led investigative team. But meetings with some of my colleagues who have extensive experience in that part of the world, can be summarized by what one of them said to me: “The evidence presented by the LAPD in the O. J. Simpson trial was so bungled that more was needed to convict. Roughly the same is true of the South Korean military’s indictment of North Korea in the sinking of the Cheonan.”

In a meeting a week ago, a colleague compared two pictures that the investigative team used to claim:

As for conclusive evidence that can corroborate the use of a torpedo, we have collected propulsion parts, including propulsion motor with propellers and a steering section from the site of the sinking. The evidence matched in size and shape with the specifications on the drawing presented in introductory materials provided to foreign countries by North Korea for export purposes.

As indicated in the above figure that he shared with me, the drawing and the alleged recovered parts don’t match in critical details. Today, the South Korean military confirmed his claim:

South Korea’s military investigators admitted Tuesday they had “mistakenly” shown the wrong blueprint of the type of North Korean torpedo they said sank a South Korean warship … The investigators called the incident a “mistake by a working-level staff.”

This colleague also shared the figure shown below and questioned (as have others) why the alleged marking on the torpedo is on a clean surface when pictures of the recovered torpedo show significant corrosion everywhere else.

These two questions are part of a larger body of issues that beg for answers [1]. As with OJ’s trial, this is not to say that North Korea is innocent, just that a better investigation is needed before reaching a verdict that could revive the Korean war and might even lead to a nuclear disaster.

[1] For some of those other issues, see two of my earlier posts by clicking here and here. There is also official South Korean evidence, not covered in any of my previous posts, that its navy may have fired on a North Korean vessel prior to the sinking of the Cheonan.

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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One Response to OJ Simpson and the Cheonan

  1. Jon says:

    I do not know anything about these cases, but I completely agree that the standard of proof needed to take an action that would kill so many innocent people needs to be higher than the standard of proof we use for convicting common criminals. Yet it appears to be much lower.

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