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Security Lapse at Time of NK Satellite Launch Unveiled

Posted October. 12, 2009 07:03,   


Two pieces of radar equipment on the country’s easternmost islets of Dokdo islets were out of order when North Korea launched a satellite in April, a report said yesterday.

When the North launched the Kwangmyongsong-2 six months ago, the South Korean military and police tightened surveillance to cope with a potential provocation, according to a document submitted by the National Police Agency to ruling party lawmaker Kim So-nam, a member of the parliamentary committee for public administration and security.

The report said two pieces of radar equipment for sea surveillance on Dokdo considered critical devices for the (South) Korea Coast Guard were out of order April 5, when the satellite was launched.

The remote control unit card of the display unit was broken in one radar set up in 2000, and the transmission and reception devices were out of order in another established in 2005. The two pieces of equipment had kept watch interchangeably every four hours, but their breakdown showed a breach in security.

In addition, police belatedly reported on the broken radar equipment and their repair. Police in North Gyeongsang Province reported the problem to the National Police Agency April 2, a day after the accident happened.

The first radar that broke down March 20 was repaired April 6, and the second that broke down April 1 was repaired May 13. The two on Dokdo did not work for five days.

Belatedly, police replaced both machines in July in light of the difficulty of getting parts and the machines’ tendency to go out of order.

In addition, two other devices on the islets went out of order. The devices are part of a communications system that sends the location of objects to the Navy, the Coast Guard and the Air Force once a foreign ship or airplane is detected by the coast surveillance camera.

The devices report dangerous situations and ask authorities to dispatch airplanes. Police checked the device April 6 and found one did not turn on and could not change the radio wave of the other.

When North Korea launched the satellite, the South Korean Defense Ministry held the first meeting of its crisis management committee since the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak. The ministry also strengthened military surveillance in preparation for a potential North Korean provocation.

“There are two devices in case one does not work, but by chance the two were out of order at the same time,” a police source said. “Repair was delayed as it took time to manufacture parts and ships were hindered by bad weather around Dokdo.”

Lawmaker Kim said, “Since no soldiers are stationed on Dokdo and police are protecting the islets, the support and management system must be strengthened to prevent a recurrence.”