[EDITORIALS]Did North telegraph clash?The National Defense Ministry is investigating an allegation that intelligence authorities downplayed signs of the North Korean attack on South Korean vessels in the Yellow Sea in June. The investigation must be conducted impartially without prejudice to reveal the truth and prevent a recurrence of the incident. And yet, the investigation, even in its early stage, is developing into a case in which Major General Han Cheul-yong would be made a scapegoat. General Han, in fact, disclosed the allegation.
What is most important is whether the Korea National Intelligence Bureau under the National Defense Ministry made an accurate judgement and planned proper countermeasures after studying intelligence on North Korea's military movements. On June 13, the day of local elections in South Korea, Kim Dong-shin, who was then defense minister, was reportedly given a report by the nation's chief military intelligence agency that summarized data from lower spy units, including one from Unit 5679 that covered intercepts of communications between a North Korean vessel and its commanding authorities.
Mr. Kim reportedly scolded the KNIB for providing an ambiguous report, indicating that the agency only pointed to the possibilities of an attack, failing to accurately elucidate North Korea's real intent.
And yet, the Korea National Intelligence Bureau is criticizing General Han, asserting that Unit 5679, under his command, did not submit in its daily report two of the three intercepts, which allegedly signaled the North's plan for armed provocation on June 27. The Korea National Intelligence Bureau also said that his unit misjudged the North's violation of the Northern Limit Line on June 13, calling it a simple accident. The Korea National Intelligence Bureau must consider why Unit 5679 made the errors.
The bureau is also responsible for downplaying the report. We cannot accept the top spy agency's excuse that it did not know about the omitted data, which led to the misjudgment, since Unit 5679's intercepts are always made available to other units and authorities real time.
It was suggested that the KNIB downplayed reports of repeated and unusual activities by the North and the possibility of armed provocation to avoid a reprimand from the defense minister and damage to the government's engagement policy toward the North. If that is true, we see no purpose for the KNIB.