A Tour of the ROKS Yang Man Choon and Hwa Cheon

Yan Man Choon Bow ShotIt feels like lightning has struck twice in the same place. By same place I mean the Burrard Drydock Pier in North Vancouver, and by lightning I mean a visit by a foreign Navy from a different continent. Last weekend the Republic of Korea ships (ROKS) Yang Man Choon and Hwa Cheon visited North Vancouver and were open to public for four days. They're on a combined good will and training tour, visiting all the nations that fought on their side in the Korean war.

The ROKS Yang Man Choon, DDH 973, is a Korean built DDH-I (Gwanggaetodaewang) class destroyer. The ROKS Hwa Cheon, AOE 59, is a combat support and supply ship. The two ships were rafted together side-by-side, making it easy to miss the Hwa Cheon. The configuration made it easy to traverse from one ship to the other and the tour they laid out took advantage of this.

I actually made the tour twice. The first time was on Saturday when a friend and I discovered the ships after walking to Lonsdale Quay (there were announcements, but not in the channels I follow), the second was on Monday when my father was over for a visit and wanted to have a look. There was a quite a contrast between the days. Saturday was a zoo. There was an official ceremony of some sort and as I got there VIPs were being "piped" off the ship . The pier was a mass of people and the tour wasn't much more than a line of people filing through. There were far fewer people on Monday, allowing for an introductory video in the hanger and a chance to take a look at things without gumming up the works.

The other difference between Saturday and Monday were the visible security arrangements. Saturday had none, while on Monday there were men armed with rifles, metal detectors, and a man with a billy-club at the base of the gangway. It seemed odd that the ceremonies taking place on Saturday didn't warrant this, while the smaller crowds on Monday did. On both days the crew were a combination of polite and friendly. Sadly, their English was as good as my Korean, which is to say we didn't do a lot of talking.

Except for the bridge of the Yang Man Choon, the tour never revealed the inside of either ship. Disappointing but understandable. Along the lower deck walkway of the Hwa Cheon there was a display highlighting each of the countries that fought for the Republic of Korean in the Korean war, as well as presenting general information about the war. There was also an industrial display, half dedicated to Korean weapon systems and half showing miscellaneous other initiatives.

When I hear about tensions between North and South Korea in the news, I don't think about Canada's roles in the Korean war. I was a little taken aback by the thank you. It was also the first time I considered the war from a Korean perspective. I felt very ignorant. Except for the odd documentary, most of my information on the Korean war comes from entertainment like the TV show MASH and old war movies, and we all know how accurate Hollywood is.

Korea Say Thank You

As with the New Zealand frigate Te Kaha's visit, the best part of the tour was getting a real world look at something I'd only seen in photographs and movies. The destroyer didn't have a lot of obvious weapons but was bristling with different types of antennas. The supply ship actually had more obvious, though relatively small, guns. I couldn't help laughing at the gun turret that looked like it was stolen from an anime/cartoon gundum! The destroyer's bridge was utterly spacious in comparison to the frigate.

I took a bunch of pictures, click to get the full size version. It's hard to get a sense of scale because you can't really get far enough back or the right angle to get everything in.

Thank you Korea for sending your ships for a visit, and thank you Yang Man Choon and Hwa Cheon officers and crew for being gracious hosts. May you always arrive safely at your destination, even after danger.

Websites:
ROK Navy English Website
ROK Navy Website: DDH-I (DDH-Gwanggaetodaewang class) Destroyer
ROK Navy Website: Combat support ship (AOE)
Global Security: KDX-I Okpo class DDH (Destroyer Helicopter)
Global Security: Chonji / Chun Jee class AOE

Name Note:
While researching the Yang Man Choon I discovered a variety of spellings. The Korean Navy website has the spelling Yang Man-chun1. I've also seen Yang Manchoon2, Yang Manchun3, Yangmanchun4. The spelling Yang Man Choon is how it appears in the local announcements5, presumably from a press release or information packet, and the ship's gangway reads Yanmanchoon, so that's the spelling I'm going with.

1: ROK Navy: Ship Photo Gallery (Search DDH-973)
2: Wikipedia: List of Republic of Korea Navy ships
3: Wapedia-Wiki: Gwanggaeto the Great class destroyer
4: Global Security: KDX-I Okpo class DDH (Destroyer Helicopter)
5: City of North Vancouver: Korean Navy Vessels Visit City of North Vancouver / North Shore News: South Korean navy vessels open to the public

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