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[Opinion] North Korean Submarines

Posted October. 14, 2004 23:25,   


There were two occasions, in 1996 and 1998, when North Korean submarines were exposed in our seas. In 1996 and in 1998, a shark-class submarine and a Yugo-class submarine were discovered on the coast of Gangneung and near Sokcho, Gangwon Province, respectively. For the former, a taxi driver reported the stranded submarine, and for the latter, the captain of a fishing boat catching sauries reported the submarine caught in a fishing net. Since then, the joke that "our seas are protected by taxi drivers and fishermen" became popular for a while. It is needless to say that the Navy, which lost face, pledged to step up efforts to guard the seas.

Several days ago, there was another racket in the East Sea. The military authorities carried out an all-out anti-submarine mission, having acquired intelligence information from the U.S. forces that "an object suspected to be a North Korean submarine was tracked," but they found nothing. It was obviously an unusual incidence as the Navy dropped depth bombs. What is worrisome is how much our military`s maritime alert capability has been reinforced since the 1998 incident. The public cannot help feeling uneasy if North Korean submarines still freely enter and exit our seas.

A submarine is a weapon in which stealthiness is its life. Thus, it is extremely difficult to track a submarine. To illustrate, the U.S. secretary of Defense confessed in 1998, "Even though the military uses all possible means, we are able to track only 50 percent of enemy submarines which infiltrate U.S. seas." When the world`s mightiest military powerhouse is at such a condition, it is needless to talk about Korea, which depends heavily on the U.S. for North Korea military information including information on the track and sonar of submarines. This is the reason we have to step up our efforts to upgrade military cooperation with the U.S. if we are to realize "independent self-defense."

It is interesting that this "racket for submarine hunt" started from the U.S.` proffer of intelligence information. It is all the more so as the year 1996, when the submarine incidence occurred, is also the year when Robert Kim (Korean name, Kim Chae-gon), who was working for the U.S. Navy Intelligence at the time, was arrested for espionage. Is it that the U.S., which is determined not to leak information, changed its posture to be more cooperative with Korea in sharing information? If not, it can be interpreted that the U.S. wanted to boast that it is observing every single move of North Korea. As a matter of fact, the U.S. promised to dispose an Aegis Destroyer in the East Sea to "check North Korea" within this year.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com