My latest at the Diplomat tries to explain the Republic of Korea Navy:
Last week, Kyle Mizokami argued that the Republic of Korea Navy is “Impressive … and Pointless.” Mizokami makes the nutshell case against South Korea’s shift to the sea: “In the country’s rush to embrace its destiny as a seagoing nation, South Korea has prematurely shifted resources from defending against a hostile North Korea to defeating exaggerated sea-based threats from abroad. Seoul is in the midst of a strategic shift that has shorted defenses against the North and put its forces in harm’s way.”
There’s no doubt something to this argument. The largest ships of the ROKN can, in context of the current state of disengagement between North and South Korea, look like little more than floating targets. South Korea treated the sinking of the Cheonan with admirable restraint. Imagine, however, if an over-excited North Korean sub skipper decided to try to torpedo Dokdo or Seojong the Great? It’s difficult to imagine that Seoul could avoid aggressive retaliation under those conditions, even given uncertainty about the North Korean response.
But navies serve multiple purposes.