Korea Coast Guard
Protecting the coast of the Republic of Korea
The Korea Coast Guard was founded in 1953, with assistance from the US Coast Guard. It is therefore not surprising that the primary missions of the younger service follow, to some extent, the primary missions of the older service. The Korea Coast Guard is comprised of approximately 10,000 personnel operating almost 300 vessels and over 20 aircraft. The service is an independent component of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. Its primary missions consist of maritime search and rescue (SAR); maritime security; marine environmental protection; marine environmental response; maritime law enforcement; and maritime traffic safety management. Missions of the US Coast Guard that are not performed by the Korea Coast Guard include aids to navigation (ATON) and commercial vessel safety. These later functions are assigned to other components of the Ministry. The Korea Coast Guard Headquarters is located in Incheon, the maritime port for Seoul. There are hundreds of small operating units along the Korean coast, similar to the stations maintained by the US Coast Guard. The Korea Coast Guard operates four classes of heavy vessels (those in excess of 1000 tons), with more and larger vessels in the planning stage. It has about 40 medium vessels, similar to USCG patrol craft, and over 100 small vessels. The Korea Coast Guard also operates one fireboat, over thirty response vessels, and four all-weather amphibious hovercraft. The aviation unit has six fixed wing aircraft and sixteen helicopters. Logistics are handled by the Korea Coast Guard Maintenance Agency. New officers are trained at the Korea Coast Guard Academy and there is a separate Research and Development (R&D) Center. With respect to the tragic foundering of the passenger ferry SEWOL, the Korea Coast Guard has been heavily involved in the search, rescue, and recovery. Having no authority over commercial vessel safety or superintendence of merchant marine, it is not directly involved in the marine casualty investigation. The President of South Korea, though, is threatening to dissolve the Coast Guard for failing to do its utmost to rescue persons on the ferry.