North Korea admits that one of its Navy ships has sunk, killing sailors


North Korean flags fly at half-mast on fishing boats after the funeral of the late leader Kim Jong Il, at the Chinese North Korean border area near Dandong on Dec. 29, 2011.


Mark Ralston

In a rare admission of military failure, North Korea has said that one of its naval vessels sank during “combat duties” in October, killing a number of North Korean sailors.

North Korea’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun did not provide the number of the dead, but photographs of gravestones in Saturday's website edition suggested that about 15 to 20 sailors perished.

The newspaper reported that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un "took a measure for finding out all (the crew's) bodies and holding a solemn funeral for them." It showed a photo of him laying flowers at a cemetery created for victims of the sinking.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, citing a military source, said a Hainan-class 375-ton submarine chaser and a 100- to 200-ton patrol boat sank off Wonsan in separate incidents in mid-October.

"The Hainan-class submarine chaser probably sank because it's old,” the source said. “It was built in China in the 1960s and the North bought it in the mid-70s.”

Other reports from South Korea claimed that the two boats sank after colliding into each other.

North and South Korea have remained technically at war since the Korean conflict ended in an armistice in 1953.

While the North's military totals more than one million personnel, much of its equipment is aging.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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