The operations of Western navies in Middle Eastern waters have received considerable publicity over the years.
Little has been heard though, of Seoul’s Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) “Cheonghae” task group, which has been active in the region for the past decade.
This changed in mid-November, when the ROKN destroyer Dae Jo-yeong was deployed from the Gulf of Aden in response to the seizure, reportedly by rebel Houthi elements engaged in the civil war in Yemen, of three vessels.
Dae Jo-yeong is a 4,500-tonne KDX II type destroyer, armed with Haeseong anti-shipping cruise missiles, SM2 Block IIIA air defence missiles and a 127mm gun. It can operate two Super Lynx helicopters.
The ROKN response appears to have been effective. The seized vessels, identified in local reports as the Saudi tug Rabigh 3, and two South Korean craft, namely the tug Woongjin T-1100, and sand dredger Woonjing G-16, together with a total of 16 crew members, were released on November 19, and proceeded to the Saudi port of Jazan.
Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.