| The stern of the Cheonan, a South Korean naval corvette that was sunk by a North Korean torpedo in March 2009, was discovered at the bottom of the Yellow Sea 180 meters north of the site of the explosion. The vessel`s bow was recovered 6.4 kilometers southeast. Though crew members who were not rescued after the attack were in the stern, the South Korean Navy failed to locate it until 49 hours after the attack. Had the sea current analysis program developed by the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology been available at that time, naval staff would have been able to quickly locate the stern.
When an oil leak from the Chinese tanker Hebei Spirit covered waters off South Korea뭩 west coast with black oil in July 2007, authorities predicted that the spilled oil would reach the coast in 33 hours. It took just 14 hours, however. Experts estimate that accurate prediction of the currents and winds would have reduced the estimated damage of 600 billion won (529 million U.S. dollars) at least 20 percent. In 2003, Typhoon Maemi flooded a basement-level karaoke bar in the southern coastal city of Masan, killing eight people. No developed country is immune to natural disasters, but the difference between a developed and an undeveloped country is that the latter minimizes damage with the ability to predict and brace for an impending disaster.
The Korean ocean think tank뭩 marine prediction system can drastically reduce damage through its real-time analyses of sea currents, winds, wave heights, temperatures and salinity. The Maritime & Ocean Engineering Research Institute was expanded and reorganized into the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology Wednesday. Many in the ocean industry complained when the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry was merged into another ministry after the incumbent administration was inaugurated. The launch of the new institute might have been provided a measure of consolation for them.
The Yeosu World Expo has rekindled interest in the world`s oceans. Futurists predict higher global dependence on the seas for much of the world`s needed natural resources in 30-50 years, when usable resources on land will likely be exhausted. Korea`s development of the cutting-edge 1,400-ton icebreaker Onnuri has had many countries requesting cooperation. Korea will launch a 5,000-ton icebreaker in 2014. The country ranks 10th in the world in ocean research but its investment in ocean-related research and development is just a sixth of Japan`s and a fourth of China뭩. The differences are similar to the gaps in Korea`s overall national power with neighboring countries. Sandwiched between China and Japan, Korea has a long way to go to become a true sea power.
Editorial Writer Heo Seung-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)