Chong Chon Gang

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Chong Chon Gang

1977-2014 Chong Chon Gang

2014-present Tong Hung San
Namesake: Ch'ongch'on River
Owner: Chongchongang Shipping (2013)
Operator: Chongchongang Shipping (2013)
Port of registry: Nampo,  North Korea
Builder: Nampo Shipyard
In service: 1977
Identification: IMO number7937317
General characteristics
Type: General cargo ship
Tonnage: 9,147 GT
Length: 155 m (509 ft)
Beam: 20 m (66 ft)
Draft: 8.9 m (29 ft)
Crew: 35

Chong Chon Gang (Chosŏn'gŭl: , Hanja: [1]) is a North Korean cargo ship, later renamed the Tong Hung San.

The 155 m (509 ft) general cargo ship was built in 1977[2] in Nampo. Its owner is listed as Chongchongang Shipping of Pyongyang.[3] Chongchongang Shipping may be a front company answering to "Office #39" (otherwise known as the Central Committee Bureau 39) of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), which is responsible for state-sanctioned illicit activities such as the smuggling of prohibited items including weapons and luxury goods. Office #39 was created in 1974 as a department-level organization within the WPK Secretariat under the WPK Central Committee. Its primary role was, and still is, engaging in illegal activities in order to generate hard currency for the North Korean government.[4]


On 11 March 2009, Chong Chon Gang was chased by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. Pirates shot guns and an RPG from a speedboat, which damaged the ship and injured two crew members.[5][6] After the attack, the ship caught the attention of maritime officials when it made a stop at the Russian naval facility in Tartus, Syria. It's unknown why it was there.


On 26 February 2003, Iran detained Chong Chon Gang at Bandar Imam Khomeini.[5]

In February 2010, Ukrainian authorities detained the ship at Oktyabrsk Port, Mykolaiv. It was carrying a heroin substitute, alcohol, cigarettes, and AK-47 ammunition.[7]

In March 2010, Egypt charged that the vessel was carrying "dangerous goods".

From April 12, 2013, to July 11 the Chong Chon Gang sent irregular signals to the Automatic Identification System. This and "unspecified" intelligence prompted Panamanian officials to seize the ship on 15 July at Manzanillo International Terminal[8][9] Reportedly, when Panamanian troops approached the ship, its crew responded violently and the captain later attempted to kill himself.[10] A reported missile was found buried in a cargo of 250,000 bags of brown sugar, resulting in the vessel's seizure. It was reportedly on its way from Cuba to North Korea. As of 16 July, only two of the several cargo compartments had been inspected. North Korea has yet to comment, while Cuba stated that the "obsolete weapons" on the ship were going to North Korea for repair. These weapons included two anti-aircraft missile batteries, nine air defense missiles in parts, two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 fighter planes, and 15 engines for them.[9][11] All of these weapons were built by the Soviet Union in the mid-20th century.[12]

The Red Cross stated that "[the crew members] are OK. They are all calm,".[13] Panama expelled most of the ship's 35-man crew to Cuba and other countries on 30 January 2014. The captain and two other officers were kept in Panama to face charges of arms smuggling.[14] The North Korean government paid a fine of US$666,666 for the release of the vessel.[15]

Subsequent developments

In October 2014 the Chong Chon Gang was transferred to another North Korean owner, Tonghunsan Shipping Company, and renamed Tong Hun San.[16][17]

See also


  1. ^ "パナマ大統領「北朝鮮の船舶からミサイル部品押収」" ["Missile parts seized from ships of North Korea" Panama President]. Joong-Ang Il-bo (in Japanese). 17 July 2013.
  2. ^ "Chong Chon Gang: North Korean-flagship with missile". Convenient Flags. 16 July 2013.
  3. ^ "Chong Chon Gang". Maritime Connector. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  4. ^ Kan, Paul Rexton; Bechtol, Bruce E., Jr.; Collins, Robert M. (March 2010). "Criminal Sovereignty: Understanding North Korea's Illicit International Activities" (pdf). Strategic Studies Institute. U.S. Army War College.
  5. ^ a b Dorell, Oren (18 July 2013). "North Korea ship held in Panama has a colorful past". USA Today. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  6. ^ Marete, Gitonga (18 March 2009). "Crew member shot as pirates attack vessel". Mombasa. Sunday Nation. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  7. ^ Вся правда :: Ким Чен Ир будет недоволен: в Украине арестовали судно КНДР [Kim Jong-il will be dissatisfied in Ukraine DPRK ship arrested]. Vsya-Pravda (in Russian). 2 February 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  8. ^ "North Korea ship held in Panama has a colorful past". USA Today. July 18, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Castillo, Mariano; Shoichet, Catherine E.; Oppmann, Patrick (17 July 2013). "Cuba: 'Obsolete' weapons on ship were going to North Korea for repair". CNN.
  10. ^ Johnston, Ian; Bruton, F. Brinley (16 July 2013). "North Korean ship carrying hidden 'missile equipment' detained after leaving Cuba". NBC News.
  11. ^ "North Korean ship with 'military cargo' held by Panama". Asia. BBC News. 16 July 2013.
  12. ^ Kriel, Lomi (21 July 2013). "Panama finds MiG fighter jets on North Korean arms ship". Yahoo! News. Reuters. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  13. ^ "Red Cross says crew of seized North Korean ship well". July 24, 2013. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  14. ^ Pascual, Castalia (30 January 2014). "Panama releases majority of crew on North Korean ship". CNN. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  15. ^ Byrne, Leo (17 January 2014). "North Koreans ready to pay for arms smuggling ship and crew: North Korean Foreign Ministry agrees to pay $666,666 fine". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  16. ^ "Report of the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1874 (2009)". United Nations Security Council. 23 February 2015. p. 47. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
  17. ^ Byrne, Leo (10 December 2015). "OFAC's new sanctions on N. Korean shipping". NK News. Retrieved 25 December 2015.

External links

  • "Chong Chon Gang". Marine Traffic.
  • Eckert, Paul (18 July 2013). "'Desperate' Cuba voyage is latest scrape for North Korean fleet". Reuters.
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