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General: South Conceding Limit Line

Posted June. 29, 2006 03:21,   


The 2002 West Sea naval clash blew up into a political controversy three months after it happened by Unit 5679’s (Army Intelligence Command, which monitors and intercepts communication of the North Korean Army) vice-commander Maj. Gen. Han Cheol-yong’s bombshell declaration. He revealed, “The top military authorities commanded us to ignore North Korea’s signs of provocation, and report it as a simple violation.”

After scolding the military authorities in a confidential document, the “black book” (a daily intelligence report on North Korea), the major general received a reprimand of a month’s suspension from duty for leaking military secrets, and retired from the army.

With the upcoming 4th anniversary of the West Sea clash, Han met with a reporter at his home in Songpa-gu, Seoul. He said, “After the naval clash in the West Sea, the will to defend the Northern Limit Line (NLL) should have gotten stronger, but the reality isn’t like that. Whatever happens, we must not give up the NLL to North Korea.”

The reason he, an intelligence agent, persists on defending the NLL even by North Korea’s rupturing a conference at the generals level last month, is analyzed to be due to the strategic location of the five islands of the West Sea.

“The islands, which can be used as a platform for North Korea landing operations in the case of emergency, are a hindrance for North Korea. North Korea persists in wanting to neutralize those islands because it thinks that if it were not for the islands, Seoul would be easy to capture, and so persists in wanting the neutralization of the islands as a stepping-stone. Therefore, we can not ignore the possibility that North Korea will make a sudden action.”

He said that the contents of correspondences by the North Korean army tapped immediately before the start of the West Sea clash containing hints of provocation can’t be revealed, but, “There is no change in my conviction that is was a decisive sign of provocation.”

Han added, “In the middle of the 1990s, when U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) picked up words such as ‘attack,’ or ‘shoot’ against South Korea in situations other than training while intercepting messages from the North, they immediately reported to the U.S. Secretary of Defense. During an intelligence missions, if words like that were picked up, we could predict a surprise attack.” His words hinted at the content of the message he picked up.

About criticisms that he “leaked military secrets and disrupted the order of rank,” Han remarks, “I would do the same in another such situation, and I have no regret in my actions.

“I merely held out the black book at the parliamentary inspection sessions, and did not leak any of the content. The content was hidden even in the court. I could not overlook the military leadership’s act of shifting their responsibility onto their subordinates.”

Han, who demanded a trial for the cancellation of his suspension from duty immediately after his discharge from the military, lost in court in October 2004, appealed and won last January.

The Ministry of Defense made a final appeal to the Supreme Court, but it was rejected.

Currently, Han is a guest professor of North Korean at Konkuk University’s Chungju campus.

He commented that the Korean army’s intelligence skills should be accurately acknowledged, and that redemption of wartime operational control should be carefully moved on.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com