The jamming signals which interrupted Global Positioning System reception in the West Sea in late August came at least in part from the Kaesong area in North Korea. The North reportedly imported GPS interrupters from Russia, modified them and then made its own version several years ago; now it is promoting their export to the Middle East.
Given that considerable quantities of South Korean and U.S. weapons including some missiles and bombs rely on GPS, this is surely threat. And GPS use is growing in civilian life as well, so there is no telling what dangers the future may hold, including to safe civilian aviation.
It seems that the North Korean regime is putting all its efforts into disrupting and threatening the South. After freezing the home pages of major South Korean institutions in a massive hacker attack, the North sank the Navy corvette Cheonan and experimented with GPS disruption equipment from Kaesong.
The North has been unable to boost its conventional military strength with tanks, fighter planes and warships due to financial strains since the 1990s. Instead, it has focused on strengthening so-called asymmetrical warfare capabilities, from the weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear and biochemical weapons and missiles to special forces which are more threatening but cost-effective.
Is the North equipped with sate-of-the-art asymmetrical weapons? Not at all. But most of the North's asymmetrical weapons are capable of attacking the weak spots of South Korean and U.S. defenses. The salmon-class submarine that attacked the Cheonan in March is part of that asymmetrical advantage. Smaller and more old-fashioned than South Korean subs though they may be, they have no problem infiltrating and carrying out special operations.
The hacker attack that paralyzed major South Korean websites last year is blamed on North Korean hackers, of whom there is a 600-strong unit. The North's 330 AN-2 aircraft, developed in the late 1940s, are antique, but they are capable enough to smuggle special forces through enemy defense, giving a headache to the South Korea and U.S. forces. The North also has a 200,000-strong special forces unit, one of the world's largest.
A North Korean electronic warfare manual dealing with camouflage and fake tactics that became public in September shows how hard the North is working to prepare for war. Touching on the Kosovo War, the manual says, "Yugoslavian forces in an exposed camp deployed fake antiaircraft guns, ground-to-air missiles, aircraft and tanks made of logs, plywood and cloth, and hid their actual weapons. As a result, NATO forces in fact destroyed only 13 of the 300 tanks though it claimed to have destroyed 40 percent of the armored targets."
Such precision and tenacity are astounding. South Korea cannot and should not imitate this, but the military must therefore work even harder to counter the North. Only then can we prevent a war.
By Yu Yong-won from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk