North Korea concealed a collision between a Russian submarine and one of its own patrol ships as well as fishing boats that occurred nearly a year ago in coastal waters off the northeastern port city Cheongjin, resulting in 19 deaths, sources inside the country said.
The accident occurred when a Russian submarine in the East Sea of Korea (Sea of Japan) quickly surfaced to disentangle itself from an abandoned fishing net and collided with and overturned several fishing boats and a North Korean naval vessel, sources from North Hamgyong province where Cheongjin is located recently told RFA.
There were 14 people on the fishing boats eating dinner together and 32 on the naval vessel in the coastal area when the incident occurred at around 11 p.m. in early July 2014, one of the sources said.
“Several fishing boats from the Cheongjin fisheries cooperative association and North Korean navy patrol Ship No.679 carrying out sea surveillance crashed against the Russian super-submarine and then sank into the sea,” he said.
Eleven Navy sailors and eight fishermen were killed, and the Russians on board the submarine rescued the survivors, another source in the province told RFA.
“Particularly, this accident is not yet known to residents in Cheongjin,” he said.
The reason why North Korea tried to cover up the accident was because leader Kim Jong Un wanted to get crude oil and food aid from Russia instead of China, he said.
The isolated nation has been at odds with its neighbor over Chinese pressure concerning North Korea’s nuclear situation and Pyongyang’s increasingly insular outlook.
North Korean authorities hastily covered up the accident by reassigning the Navy sailors who had survived to different locations such as Rason on the country’s northeast tip, and relocating families of the deceased fishermen to other areas, sources said.
The sailors were interred at the Heroic Warrior Cemetery in Pyongyang, which is owned by Kim Jong Un, one source said.
Many North Korean fishermen are involved in fatal accidents because their boats ate too small and too old to withstand collisions with larger vessels, sources said.
Reported by Jieun Kim of RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Yunju Kim. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.