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[Editorial] Gov`t Must Shift Focus from Wartime Op-con to Strengthening Intelligence Capability

[Editorial] Gov`t Must Shift Focus from Wartime Op-con to Strengthening Intelligence Capability

Posted October. 17, 2006 07:07,   


North Korea’s nuclear test has revealed South Korean government’s lack of intelligence gathering capability. Despite warnings from North Korea of a nuclear test, South Korea failed to predict the exact test date, and after the test, it caused confusion with its inaccurate data on the seismic center and radioactive leakage from the test site. In contrast, the U.S. demonstrated its accuracy in the information on the nuclear test. Still, the South Korean government is not paying attention to strengthening its intelligence capability to tackle its “nuclear illiteracy,” focusing only on regaining wartime operational control from the U.S.

The Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources under the Ministry of Science and Technology said that it had been proposing the government to install an earthquake observatory near the demarcation line to detect North Korea’s nuclear tests for 10 years, only to have been dismissed. As a result, it had to turn to the U.S. Department of Defense to build an observatory and receive 200 million won a year for its management. The test site the institute announced after a second revision is near Punggye-ri, Gilju-gun in North Hamgyong Province, which had been considered suspicious by the U.S. even before the actual test.

It is doubtful whether the South Korean government has the capacity or even the willingness to detect North Korea’s nuclear test. Although South Korea launched a multi-purpose satellite, Arirang-2, in July, it first photographed the test site belatedly two days after the test to demonstrate the government’s complacency. Why did the government invest 260 billion won in tax money in the satellite in the first place, if it was not going to use it in case of an emergency?

When the U.S. and Japan predicted the test to happen as early as October 8, the South Korean government said it will be four to six weeks later. Does that mean the U.S. and Japan had some secret intelligence that they did not share with South Korea, or that they were given the same intelligence, but South Korean government saw only what it wanted to believe? Both scenarios are plausible, since the South’s government tends to side with the North no matter what.

While South Korea’s North Korea intelligence is far from being self-reliant, the government is determined to seek self-reliance in wartime op-con. This inability and obstinacy of the government can cause a serious problem when combined. In the U.S-ROK annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) to be held in Washington on October 20, the focus should not be on the wartime op-con. Unless the government is trying to serve the interest of the enemy, it should not make a stupid mistake of breaking down the alliance with the U.S.