[EDITORIALS]Unintelligent intelligence

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[EDITORIALS]Unintelligent intelligence

The National Defense Ministry held a special investigation into the allegations that defense officials ignored and omitted intelligence warnings about the June 29 inter-Korean sea clash. The aim of the investigation was to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents by finding out the truth. And yet the investigation outcome released Tuesday was insufficient to meet such a purpose.

The investigators concluded that military intelligence Unit 5679's three judgments regarding a piece of information received June 13 was adequate. If so, why did then Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin order his staff to review the report because it listed all possibilities, possibly triggering confusion in the military? The investigators failed to announce why Mr. Kim had made such a misjudgment.

If Mr. Kim acted that way because he was too conscious about this government's engagement policy toward North Korea, that fact must be revealed, because the sunshine policy and national security are two different matters. Since the investigators concluded that Unit 5679 interpreted the concerned intelligence properly, a serious matter still remains if the defense minister failed to understand the report accurately.

The Defense Ministry concluded that Mr. Kim's order eventually influenced interpretation of the intelligence headquarters and Unit 5679, suggesting that military intelligence thus downplayed the signs of the North's provocation, regarding them as "simple border violations."

After an investigation, the ministry said the claim of Major General Han Cheol-yong, the head of Unit 5679, was an exaggeration; Mr. Han had charged that downplayed intelligence warnings led to the military's poor readiness for the sea clash. The investigators said the Joint Chiefs of Staff, despite the claim, reinforced its alertness, but they failed to explain why the navy was so vulnerable to the North's attack.

Will this investigation prevent future provocations from the North? That is difficult to say, but this much is clear: Defense authorities must in the future draw up reinforced intelligence gathering and make much better judgments.

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