GEOJE ISLAND, South Korea -- South Korea's Navy launched its fourth 1,800-ton Type 214 submarine in a ceremony here on Tuesday as part of efforts to boost its underwater warfare capabilities against North Korean submarines.
The ship, named after Korea's famous independence fighter Kim Jwa-jin (1889-1930), is the fourth of its kind in operation since 2010. Kim is Korea's first general of independence fighters who led the Cheongsan-ri battle to defeat 3,300 Japanese soldiers in China's northeastern region in 1920.
President Park Geun-hye, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and senior military officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony held at Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering's shipyard in Geoje Island, close to the southern port city of Busan.
The late general's daughter Kim Eul-dong, an incumbent lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, and actor Song Il-kook, his grandson, also attended the ceremony.
The ship can hit 300 targets simultaneously, and is equipped with ship-to-land missiles and torpedoes as well as an advanced sonar system for anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
The diesel-powered submarine is operated by Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), which extends the ship's submerged endurance compared to conventional submarines. The AIP system enables the crew to carry out underwater missions for several weeks without the need to access atmospheric oxygen.
The Navy will take delivery of the attack submarine in late 2014 and deploy it in 2015 for naval operations, officials said.
South Korea currently operates over 10 submarines, including 1,200-ton Type 209 subs and 1,800-ton Type 214 subs.
The Navy plans to acquire nine 3,000-ton level heavy-attack submarines after 2020 with significant improvements in their radar and armament systems compared to their predecessors.
North Korea is known to have about 70 submarines, one of which is suspected of having torpedoed a South Korean corvette in the tensely guarded western sea in March 2010. A total of 46 sailors were killed in the incident.