Cheonghae Unit

The Republic of Korea Navy Somali Sea Escort Task Group (Korean: 대한민국 해군 소말리아 해역 호송전대), also known as "Cheonghae" Unit (Korean: 청해부대, Hanja: 淸海部隊) was established by the Republic of Korea Navy to protect civilian ships near the coast of Somalia under Combined Task Force 151.[1][2] The naval task force is named after the historical 9th-century Korean military base Cheonghaejin.[3]

Cheonghae Unit
Insignia of the Republic of Korea Navy Escort Task Group.svg
Insignia of the Cheonghae nit
ActiveMarch 3, 2009 – present
Country South Korea
BranchNaval jack of South Korea.svg Republic of Korea Navy
TypeNaval task force
RoleAnti-piracy, counter-terrorism
Part ofCombined Task Force 151
CaptainCho Young-joo[1]
Banner of the Cheonghae UnitBanner of the Republic of Korea Navy Escort Task Group.svg

Deployed from Jinhae Naval Base, the modern-day unit is responsible for safely escorting hundreds of commercial vessels and several rescues involving ships from The Bahamas, Denmark, North Korea and South Korea. In January 2011, commandos in the Cheonghae Unit successfully executed a highly publicized rescue of a South Korean tanker, freeing crew members held hostage by Somali pirates.[4]

Operational historyEdit


ROKS Munmu the Great was the first ship to be deployed as part of the unit to Somali waters on March 13, 2009.[5] On April 17, it deterred pirates from boarding the cargo vessel Puma, which was registered in Denmark.[4][6] On May 4, the Munmu the Great responded to a distress call by the North Korean merchant vessel Dabaksol.[6] A Westland Lynx military helicopter was launched to protect the Dabaksol until the pirates had fled. The North Korean sailors thanked the members of the unit before proceeding to India. A member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Republic of Korea stated, "This is the first time that the South Korean navy has rescued a North Korean cargo ship from a pirate’s attack. According to the international law of the sea, we should help all vessel[s] regardless of their nationality."[7]

ROKS Dae Joyeong was dispatched in July 2009 to relieve the Munmu the Great, and rescued four civilian vessels. In August, the Dae Joyeong raided a pirate vessel that had been pursuing the Bahamian container ship Notos Scan. In September, it freed the Cypriot commercial vessel Alexandria, along with five Yemeni crew members who were being held by pirates.[4]

ROKS Yi Sun-shin was deployed in November 2009 to become the third ship of the unit. It defeated pirates twice while escorting 460 vessels during its tour of duty.[4]


On April 4, 2010, Somali pirates took over the South Korean supertanker Samho Dream along with its 24 crew members, including five Koreans and nineteen Filipinos.[8] When the Yi Sun-shin pursued the hijacked vessel, the pirates threatened to kill the tanker crew.[9]

ROKS Kang Gamchan relieved the Yi Sun-shin in May 2010, and transported injured crew members from a Bahamian drilling ship to a hospital later that month. In August, the Kang Gamchan also provided medical assistance to the crew of a ship registered in Hong Kong.[4]

ROKS Wang Geon was deployed later that year to become the fifth ship of the unit. Among the 432 vessels it escorted was the Samho Dream, which had finally been released by pirates in November for a record ransom payment of $9.5 million.[4]

2011 rescue operationEdit

On January 21, 2011, the Cheonghae Unit rescued the crew of the Samho Jewelry, a chemical tanker held hostage by Somali pirates; 8 pirates were killed, and 5 were captured. The captain of the tanker was wounded during the operation, but the rest of the crew members were unhurt.[10]

2021 covid-19 infectionsEdit

On 19 July, 2021, it is reported that 247 out of 301 crew members of the 34th contingent of the Cheonghae Unit on the Munmu the Great was tested positive for the covid-19. Two Korean Air Force KC-330 departed with 200 replacement members to transport the 301 entire crew members back to South Korea.[11] After returning to South Korea, it is revealed that 270 crew members are tested positive.[12]

Unit rotationEdit

Rotation Size List of ships Sailing off Mission start Mission end Return to port Notes & events
1st 300 DDH-976 Munmu the Great 13 March 2009 16 April 2009 19 August 2009 14 September 2009
2nd 300 DDH-977 Dae Jo-yeong 16 July 2009 19 August 2009 23 December 2009 18 January 2010
3rd 300 DDH-975 Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin 20 November 2009 23 December 2009 21 April 2010 20 May 2010
4th 300 DDH-979 Gang Gam-chan 2 April 2010 21 April 2010 12 September 2010 4 October 2010
5th 300 DDH-978 Wang Geon 9 July 2010 13 September 2010 28 December 2010 20 January 2011
6th 300 DDH-981 Choe Yeong 8 December 2010 29 December 2010 5 May 2011 27 May 2011 Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden
Libyan Civil War
7th 300 DDH-975 Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin 5 April 2011 6 May 2011 12 September 2011 4 October 2011
8th 300 DDH-976 Munmu the Great 12 August 2011 13 September 2011 14 January 2012 10 February 2012
9th 300 DDH-977 Dae Jo-yeong 16 December 2011 15 January 2012 22 May 2012 15 June 2012
10th 300 DDH-978 Wang Geon 23 April 2012 23 May 2012 11 September 2012 22 October 2012
11th 300 DDH-979 Gang Gam-chan 20 August 2012 12 September 2012

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Remaining 7 S. Korean crew members of freed cargo ship to arrive home Wednesday". Yonhap. January 31, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
  2. ^ Jung, Sung Ki (March 3, 2009). "New S. Korean Naval Unit To Deploy to Somalia". Defense News. Retrieved October 27, 2009.[dead link]
  3. ^ Kim, Deok-hyun (December 28, 2010). "Replacement for Korean anti-piracy unit to start mission off Somalia". Yonhap. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kim, So-hyun (January 21, 2011). "Cheonghae Unit's previous anti-piracy successes". The Korea Herald. Retrieved February 2, 2011.
  5. ^ Yook, Jeong-soo (March 13, 2009). "Munmu the Great Deployed to Somalia". The Dong-a Ilbo. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Cheonghae Unit's Rescue of North Korean Merchant Ship". Hankook Ilbo. Korea Foundation. May 5, 2009. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  7. ^ "S. Korean navy rescues N. Korea cargo ship from pirates". The Hankyoreh. May 5, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  8. ^ "South Korean navy pursues hijacked oil tanker". BBC News. April 5, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  9. ^ Song, Sang-ho (January 20, 2010). "Seoul fraught by Somali pirates' ship hijackings". The Korea Herald. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  10. ^ Guisnel, Jean (January 24, 2011). "La marine coréenne conduit un raid meurtrier contre des pirates somaliens" [The Korean Navy conducts a deadly raid against Somali pirates]. Le Point (in French). Retrieved January 24, 2011.
  11. ^ "247 out of 301 Crew Members of the Cheonghae Unit Test Positive for COVID-19". The Kyunghyang Shinmun. July 19, 2021.
  12. ^ "청해부대 270명 확진…합참, 증상자 폭증 몰랐다" [Cheonghae Unit 270 confirmed... Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not know the number of symptomatic patients]. The Hankyoreh. July 21, 2021.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit