Bureaucratic confusion on NorthThe South Korean Unification Ministry remained in the dark for five days after a group of North Korean defectors crossed the disputed West Sea border on Saturday seeking resettlement in the capitalist South. Unification Minister Hyun In-taek confessed during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday that he only learned of their defection from news reports earlier that day.
It is shocking to learn how lax is the security and defense information network among the Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Agency. We can only question if the government is capable of reinforcing national security as well as carrying out a reliable North Korean policy.
The Unification Ministry explained that it could not have known of the defection unless the military, the intelligence agency and the police informed them because it is excluded from investigating North Korean defectors in terms of their motives and plans.
But the excuse from a ministry that oversees policies over North Korean affairs and its excuse is embarrassingly lame. It cannot be excused for being oblivious to a group defection through Korean waters just because its officials did not attend the joint investigation. The defection of North Koreans is a serious issue that could influence relations with Pyongyang. The Unification Ministry should have been fully informed so that it could come up with an adequate response to Pyongyang when it demands negotiations or the repatriation of North Korean citizens.
The Unification Ministry only underscored its weak status in the government when it comes to North Korean affairs through its display of a passive and lazy attitude by blaming other organizations for keeping it in the dark. Upon confirmation of the defection, military authorities should have informed the ministry as soon as it reported the case to the president.
Poor sharing of intelligence on North Korean affairs has caused havoc before. If the Defense Ministry and National Intelligence Agency closely shared intelligence on North Korea, the deadly attacks on the warship Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island could have been avoided.
Selfishness and power games among ministries have led to the hoarding of intelligence on North Korean affairs, jeopardizing the broad policy on North Korea and national security. National security as well as the lives of the people could be at stake without exact intelligence collection, sharing and study. The loopholes must be fixed immediately before they do real harm.