Posted July. 22, 2005 06:11,
The army and police are searching for thieves who stole weapons from a checkpoint of the 23rd Corps near Chuam Beach, Donghae, Gangwon-do. The authorities believe that there is a high possibility of a follow-up crime, and are now out in full force to capture the criminals. However, they have not been able to find the thieves thus far.
The three perpetrators, presumably in their 20s, used various tools to overpower the armed soldiers. At 10:10 p.m. on July 20, one approached First Lieutenant Gwon and a communications officer who were patrolling the area, pretending to ask for directions, then suddenly pulled out a weapon. At the same time, another blinded First Lieutenant Gwon and the other soldier with adhesive spray, gagged them with gloves, and then immobilized them using tape.
The bandits tied the soldiers up and locked them in the trunk of a vehicle with Seoul license plates after taking a K-1 rifle, a K-2 rifle, two cartridges with 15 bullets, and a walkie-talkie. They drove the car three km to a place near the Donghae Tunnel on the Donghae highway to Gangneung, unloaded their prisoners after tying their feet, and took off.
Concerns over a Second Crime-
Looking at the bold methods of the crime, there are concerns of a follow-up crime, possibly at a financial institution or civilians, using the stolen weapons.
Military authorities are concerned that the stolen weapons may be used in a serious crime, like the incident after the arms heist at the Capital Defense Headquarters in 2002.
Moreover, in a worst case scenario, the criminals may take hostages or a shoot out may occur with the stolen weapons.
Military Security Fails Again -
Military authorities believe that since the perpetrators spoke with Seoul or Gangneung accents, used weapons, and released the soldiers, this crime was not a crime related to Communists.
After the incident, military authorities alerted the army corps and divisions in the area and moved into the emergency mode called Jindotgae, which is a set up against spies. They also dispatched armed soldiers to over 600 military police joint checkpoints in the Donghae, Gangneung, and Daegwanryeong areas.
An investigation headquarters has been set up Gangwon Donghae Police Station, and the police and the military are searching in and around the getaway area and inspecting each car into Seoul.
There are many who are criticizing the weak military security in the frontlines, since this case follows last months incident of a North Korean soldier escaping to South Korea through barbed-wire borderlines.
Military authorities explained that due to the proximity of the seaside checkpoint to the beaches, there has been a surge of civilians in the area, leading security lapses.
The unit reportedly had been instructed to kindly give directions to civilians and not to follow ordinary questioning protocols.