The Republic of Korea Navy (Hangul: 대한민국 해군; Hanja: 大韓民國 海軍; Revised Romanization: Dae-han-min-guk Hae-gun) or ROK Navy (ROKN) is a branch of the South Korean armed forces responsible for conducting naval operations and amphibious landing operations. The ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, which is a quasi-autonomous organization. As the oldest service within the ROK Armed Forces, the South Korean navy celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2005.
Since the Korean War, the ROK Navy concentrated its efforts to build naval forces against the North Korean navy, which has littoral naval capabilities. As South Korea's economy grew, the ROK Navy was able to build larger and better equipped fleets to deter aggression, to protect national maritime rights and to support the nation's foreign policies. As a part of its mission, the ROK Navy has engaged in several peacekeeping operations since the turn of the century.
The ROK Navy had about 68,000 regular personnel including the 27,000 Republic of Korea Marine Corps personnel as of 2006. There are some 170 commissioned ships (total displacement of approx. 153,000 tons ) in the ROK Navy, including around 10 submarines, 80 patrol craft and 20 auxiliaries as of October 2007. The naval aviation force consists of about 10 fixed-wing and 50 rotary-wing aircraft. The Marine Corps operates about 400 tracked vehicles including self-propelled artillery.
The ROK Navy aims to become a blue-water navy by 2020.
[Note on romanization: In the article, all South Korean ships' names are spelled accordingly with the Revised Romanization of Korean system and supplied with hull numbers in order to avoid confusions. Exceptions are ships named after a person's name (e.g. Chang Bo-go, Yi Sunshin, Sohn Won-yil) because the romanization of the personal name has already been established.]
Korea has a long history of naval activities. In the late 4th century during the Three Kingdoms Period, Goguryeo defeated Baekjae by operating amphibious forces of 40,000 men. In the 9th century, Commissioner Chang Bogo of the Unified Silla established a maritime base called Cheonghaejin in an island to foster trading with China and Japan; to cope with pirates.
In 1380, the naval forces of the Goryeo Dynasty defeated 500 vessels of invading Japanese pirates by deploying shipboard guns, devised by Choi Moosun, which is claimed to be the first use of shipboard guns in the naval history. In 1389 and 1419, the Korean naval force invaded Tsushima Island to suppress the Japanese pirate. In the early years of the Joseon Dynasty, the naval forces once reached its peak of 50,000 personnel due to the pirate issue.
During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), the Korean naval force commanded by Admiral Yi Sunshin, who later became the head of the Navy, cut off the invaders' naval life line and defeated the Japanese fleet reversing the war in favor of Joseon. Admiral Yi is also accredited with the creation of the Turtle Ship.
By the end of 19th century, the Joseon Navy had no significant naval force other than coast defense fortresses. Although there was an attempt to modernize the navy by establishing a royal naval school, the Joseon Navy was brought to an end in 1895. In 1903, the government of the Korean Empire purchased its first modern war ship, the Yangmu. The Korean naval tradition was disrupted after Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910.
Shortly after Korea was liberated from the Empire of Japan on August 15, 1945, a former merchant mariner and independence activist Sohn Won-yil led to form the Maritime Affairs Association, which evolved in the Marine Defense Group on November 11, 1945 (later became Navy Foundation Day) and later became the Korean Coast Guard. After the new Republic of Korea government was established on August 15, 1948, the Korean Coast Guard was formally renamed the Republic of Korea Navy, and Sohn became the first Chief of Naval Operations of the ROK Navy on September 5, 1948. On April 15, 1949, the Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) was founded at Jinhae. In October 1949, the ROK Navy purchased a 600-ton submarine chaser, the former on the American civil market with funds raised among its personnel. She was renamed as ROKS Baekdusan (PC 701) and became "the first significant warship of the newly independent nation".
The Korean War started with the North Korean army's surprise attack on Sunday, June 25, 1950. The ROK Navy confronted threats from the North Korean navy: "Perhaps the most aggressive and effective, if smallest, member of the South Korean armed services during the first year of the Korean War was the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN). At the outset of the conflict, the 6,956-man ROKN, with  naval vessels of various types, was outnumbered by the 13,700 men and 110 naval vessels of the North Korean navy. With its UN allies, dominated by U.S. forces, the ROK Navy was able to gain control in the seas surrounding the country. On July 27, 1953, the three year-long war was brought to an end when an armistice agreement was signed. During the war, Australia, Canada, Colombia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States contributed naval vessels as UN allies; Denmark sent the hospital ship Jutlandia.
In September 1953, Commander-in-Chief Republic of Korea Fleet was established.
Continuing from the 50s, the ROK Navy continued to build naval surface forces mainly with ships transferred from the U.S. Navy.
On January 19, 1967, ROKS Dangpo (PCEC 56), the former , was sunk by North Korean coastal artillery north of the demarcation line off the east coast of Korea In June 1970, a navy broadcast vessel (ROKS I-2) was captured by North Korean patrol craft in the vicinity of Yeonpyeong Islands in the West Sea (Yellow Sea).
In the 70s, the ROK Navy, through the Park Chung-hee Administration's "Yulgok Plan" (an 8-year national defense plan "to build up self-reliant, national defense capability), began to build naval forces with indigenous technologies; this initiated the ROK Navy to build fleets with locally built ships. The first 2,000-ton frigate ROKS Ulsan (FF 951) was launched in 1980 and the first 1,000-ton corvette ROKS Pohang (PCC 756) was launched in 1982 with indigenous technologies. The ROK Navy continued to carry out other new shipbuilding projects such as mine sweepers, logistic support ships and amphibious landing ships in the 80s and 90s.
In 1973, once a separate branch of the ROK Armed Forces, the ROKMC became a part of the ROK Navy.
Since the 90s, the ROK Navy has been steadily upgrading its naval forces. In 1995, Admiral An Pyongtae, the 20th Chief of Naval Operations, presented the vision of building a blue-water navy for the future of the ROK Navy in his inaugural address.
As a part of a plan to strengthen the surface combatant forces, the ROK Navy launched the lead ship of the Kwanggaeto the Great class destroyer in 1996 to replace the former USN destroyers. For building submarines forces, the ROK Navy acquired its first submarine (excluding midget submarines) ROKS Chang Bogo (SS 061) from Germany in 1992. In order to replace the aged S-2 Trackers, Lockheed P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft were delivered to the ROK Navy from 1995.
In June 1999, the ROK Navy forces engaged the North Korea naval forces near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the vicinity of Yeonpyeong Islands. In June 2002, the two Navies engaged again in the same vicinity resulting in the sinking of ROKS PKM 357.
The ROK Navy continues to put its efforts to build a blue-water navy. In 2001, then President Kim Dae-jung announced a plan for building up the Strategic Mobile Fleet.
In 2002, the lead ship (DDH 975) of the 4,500-ton Chungmugong Yi Sunshin class destroyer was launched. In 2005, the 14,000-ton amphibious landing ship, ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) was launched. In 2006, the ROK Navy launched the lead ship (SS 072) of the 1,800-ton Sohn Wonyil class submarine, which was named after the first Chief of Naval Operations, equipped with Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. In May 2007, the ROK Navy launched the lead ship (DDG 991) of the King Sejong the Great class destroyer, built around the Aegis combat system and the SPY-1D multi-function phased array radar.
As a part of its mission, the ROK Navy participated in several peacekeeping operations since the turn of the century.
Commander-in-Chief Republic of Korea Fleet (CINCROKFLT) is responsible for naval operations, and based at Busan Naval Operations Base with a command headquarters. CINCROKFLT also serves as Commander Naval Component Command (CNCC) of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC). The Republic of Korea Fleet includes the three fleets each assigned to the East Sea (Sea of Japan), West Sea (Yellow Sea), and South Sea (Korea Strait) of South Korea:
As a part of "Defense Reform 2020," which was proposed by the Roh Moo-hyun Administration, the ROK Navy is required to simplify the command structure under CINCROKFLT by disestablishing two Combat Flotillas and three Defense Commands, and reform the organizations under CINCROKFLT by upgrading the submarine operations command (to fleet submarine force), the naval aviation operations command (to fleet air arm), and by establishing some Mobile Flotillas.
South Korea has a joint military partnership with the United States as outlined by the Mutual Defense Treaty signed on 1951. Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet (C7F) is designated as Commander Combined Naval Component Command (CCNCC) "for the defense of the Korean peninsula; in the event of hostilities, all friendly naval forces in the theater would fall under C7F control. The ROK and US Governments have agreed on the transfer of wartime operational control to the South Korean government in 2012.
The Republic of Korea Navy had about 68,000 regular male and female personnel including the 27,000 Republic of Korea Marine Corps personnel as of 2006. Among them, about 11% is commissioned officers and about 32% is non-commissioned officers (including warrant officers). As a part of "Defense Reform 2020," which was proposed by the Roh Moo-hyun Administration, the ROK Navy is required to reduce its personnel to 64,000 regular personnel including the marines.
Military service is mandatory for all South Korean men. For the Navy, recruitment is volunteer-based: enlisted serving a 26-month term (the marines: 24-month term); commissioned officer, warrant officer, and non-commissioned officer serving as mandatory military service (longer than that of enlisted) or as career. In 2001, six female ensigns commissioned through the Officer Candidate School were assigned to serve on surface ships for the first time in the ROK Navy.
There are several paths to becoming a commissioned officer in the ROK Navy, including the Naval Academy, Officer Candidate School (OCS), and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC).
In the ROK Navy, enlisted sailors are referred to as "Su-byeong" (수병; 水兵). Normally the enlisted sailors serve in the Navy for 26 months; after that they will be transferred from the active list to the reserve list.
In the ROK Navy, as in the rest of the ROK Armed Forces, ranks fall into one of four categories: commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, and enlisted, in decreasing order of authority. Commissioned officer ranks are subdivided into "Janggwan"-level officers (flag officers), "Yeonggawan"-level officers (Lieutenant Commander through Captain), and "Wigwan"-level officers (Ensign through Lieutenant). All three branches (the Army, Navy, and Air Force) of the Armed Forces share the same titles of ranks in Hangul.
|ROK Armed Forces rank||Translation||U.S. Navy equivalent|
|Commissioned Officers (장교; 將校; Jang-gyo)|
|장관 (將官; Jang-gwan)|
|원수 (元帥; Won-su)¹||Fleet Admiral|
|대장 (大將; Dae-jang)||Admiral|
|중장 (中將; Jung-jang)||Vice Admiral|
|소장 (少將; So-jang)||Rear Admiral (Upper Half)|
|준장 (准將; Jun-jang)||Rear Admiral (Lower Half)|
|영관 (領官; Yeong-gwan)|
|대령 (大領; Dae-ryeong)||Captain²|
|중령 (中領; Jung-nyeong)||Commander|
|소령 (少領; So-ryeong)||Lieutenant Commander|
|위관 (尉官; Wi-gwan)|
|대위 (大尉; Dae-wi)||Lieutenant|
|중위 (中尉; Jung-wi)||Lieutenant Junior Grade|
|소위 (少尉; So-wi)||Ensign|
|Warrant Officers (준사관; 准士官; Jun-sa-gwan)|
|준위 (准尉; Jun-wi)||Warrant Officer||Chief Warrant Officer|
|Non-Commissioned Officers (부사관; 副士官; Bu-sa-gwan)|
|원사 (元士; Won-sa)||Master Chief Petty Officer|
|상사 (上士; Sang-sa)||Chief Petty Officer||Senior Chief Petty Officer|
|중사 (中士; Jung-sa)||Senior Petty Officer||Chief Petty Officer|
|하사 (下士; Ha-sa)||Petty Officer||Petty Officer First Class|
|Enlisted (병; 兵; Byeong)|
|병장 (兵長; Byeong-jang)||Leading Seaman||Petty Officer Second Class|
|상등병 (上等兵; Sang-deung-byeong)||Able Seaman||Petty Officer Third Class|
|일등병 (一等兵; Il-deung-byeong)||Seaman First Class||Seaman|
|이등병 (二等兵; I-deung-byeong)||Seaman Second Class||Seaman Apprentice|
The ROK Navy frequently participates in multinational exercises and international activities. Also it has engaged in several peacekeeping operations since the turn of the century.
In October 1998, the ROK Navy hosted its first international fleet review in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Korea and its armed forces off coast of Busan and Jinhae. About 60 ships from 12 countries participated in the fleet review including the South Korean navy. The ROK Navy announced to host its second international fleet review off coast of Busan in October 2008.
The ROK Navy employs the U.S. Navy-style letter based hull classification symbols to designate the types of its ships and hull numbers to uniquely identify its vessels (e.g. DDH 975). The names are that of the historical figures, provinces, cities, counties, peaks, lakes, islands, and birds. The Chief of Naval Operations selects the names of ships.
There are four ship rates. The first rate ship (DDH, LPH, MLS, AOE, and ASR) is commanded by a Captain; second rate ship (FF, SS, LST, and ATS) by a Commander; third rate ship (PCC, SSM, PKG, MSH, and MHC) by a Lieutenant Commander. The fourth rate (PKM and LSF) is commanded by a Lieutenant.
Commander Air Wing SIX is the command of the ROK Navy responsible for the operation of the aircraft. Its operational headquarters is located in Pohang, and major naval air stations are established in Pohang, Jinhae, and Mokpo. Air Wing SIX operates about 10 fixed-wing and 50 rotary-wing aircraft as of 2006.
Korean Destroyer Experimental was a three-phase program aimed at modernizing surface combatants by building new destroyers with advanced technology and weaponry. The proponents of the program includes the KDX-I destroyers (Kwanggaeto the Great class), which were first Korean destroyers armed with organic anti-air missiles and replaced aged destroyers transferred from the U.S. Navy; the KDX-II destroyers (Chungmugong Yi Sunshin class); KDX-III destroyers (King Sejong the Great class), which features Aegis combat system.
The FFX project aims to replace the Ulsan class frigates and Donghae/Pohang class corvettes with new 2,300-ton frigates. The total number of the ships to be built is not clear, but it is speculated that the first batch of six new frigates are to be built by 2015.
The KSS program was a three-phased project to build up the ROK Navy's submarine forces. Before the KSS program, the submarine fleet of the ROK Navy consisted of midget submarines, such as the Dolgorae class submarine and SX 756 Dolphin class submarine, which had limited capabilities for inshore operations.
Through the first phase, KSS-I, the ROK Navy acquired nine 1,200-ton Chang Bo-go class submarines. For the second phase, KSS-II, the ROK Navy plans to acquire nine 1,800-ton Type 214 submarines with Air-Independent propulsion (AIP) system; the lead ship of her class, the Sohn Won-yil (SS 072) was launched at a shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries on June 9, 2006. In June 2007, the ROK Navy launched its second 1,800-ton submarine named Jeong Ji, after a military general of the Goryeo Kingdom who defeated Japanese invaders. The Type 214 submarine is expected to play a key role in safeguarding the country's maritime interests as a part of the Navy's Mobile Flotilla. The third phase of the program, KSS-III is scheduled to begin in 2007 and to build the lead ship of her class in 2017. A total of nine 3,000-ton KSS-III submarines are expected to be built in South Korea with indigenous technologies (i.e. not going under license as the previous KSS-I and KSS-II submarines).
On 28 June 2007, the Yoon Young-ha (PKG 711), the lead ship of her class, was launched at the shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries in Busan. She is scheduled to be delivered to the South Korean navy in 2008.
The LPX project was the ROK Navy's new amphibious landing ship project for which Hanjin Heavy Industries & Constructions Co. has provided the general design package. The ROK Navy's requirements for the new amphibious landing ships were to enhance Korea's current amphibious operation capability, both in terms of assault and military operations other than war (MOOTW) type operations.
On 12 July 2005, ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111), the lead ship of her class, was launched at the shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries in Busan. She was delivered to the South Korean navy in July, 2007. The first air cushion landing craft (ROKS LSF 631) of LSF-II project was delivered for ROKS Dokdo in April, 2007.
The ROK Navy plans to acquire four new 4,500-ton amphibious ships between 2014 and 2017.
The ROK Navy plans to acquire a new 4,500-ton training ship (ATX) for midshipmen and officer candidates around 2015.
Eight ex-USN P-3 maritime patrol aircraft will be delivered to the ROK Navy by 2010 after completing upgrades. The ROK Navy has acquired eight Lockheed P-3C Orion aircraft through the maritime patrol aircraft program phase I.