Unification Minister Hyun In-taek on Tuesday admitted that the fiber optic cables South Korea provided have made it more difficult to spy on North Korea. Hyun was answering a question from a lawmaker at a session of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee. "I understand that there is a problem or a loophole" in South Korea's intelligence-gathering ability, he said.
Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Jin-suk expressed worries that South Korea's ability to gather intelligence was weakened by fiber optic cables which the South Korean government supplied to the North in the past. "I suspect that some of the 45 km-long fiber optic cables may have been diverted to lay a communications network between frontline Army units in the North," he said.
Hyun said Seoul has "no plan as of now to comply with an additional request from the North for more fiber optic cables."
The South Korean government sent 20 km, 15 km and 2 km-long copper cables to the North in 2002, 2005 and 2007, which were meant to be used for inter-Korean military communications. Last year, the South supplied the North with 45 km-long fiber optic cables, two sets of optical termination equipment, and two sets of optical measuring instruments.
Under an agreement, a 25 km portion was supposed to be laid on the east coast, and another 20 km portion on the west coast. It is difficult to wiretap a network of fiber optic cables, Chung said.
"We haven't checked yet whether the cables were used simply for the inter-Korean military communications network or for the expansion of a new communications network for frontline units," Chung said.
He said if copper cables were replaced with fiber optic cables, then that would make intelligence gathering much more difficult in cases like the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan, where there is a suspicion of North Korean involvement.