Frontline Defense to Be Beefed Up

      April 06, 2011 12:07

      Frontline defenses will be beefed up in response to North Korea's mushrooming special forces, with guard outposts near the demilitarized zone strengthened with reinforced concrete and equipped with sniper rifles and sound target tracking devices.

      "We're enhancing the combat capabilities of frontline units," Lee Yang-koo, an official at Army Headquarters, said Tuesday. "We're going to deploy sound target tracking devices, unmanned ground monitoring sensors, and sniper rifles at guard posts within the DMZ, general outposts, the Joint Security Area at the truce village of Panmunjom, and the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine office" at the inter-Korean border.

      The Army will cover the roofs of guard posts with reinforced concrete and install communications lines there with a budget of about W7 billion (US$1=W1,091) to help combat structures function properly and guarantee operational units can hold out. Guard posts are currently vulnerable to shelling and bombing by North Korea since they are barely more than huts. A military source said some facilities will be reinforced with steel plates so that they can withstand shelling or bombing.

      The 300-to-400-strong search and rescue battalion at each frontline Army division will be streamlined and reorganized mainly with elite officers, an Army officer said. Restructuring will begin in 2015 or 2016, and by around 2020, each battalion will be an elite unit with 80 to 90 personnel. New battalions will consist of special warfare troops as well as ordinary army officers with special warfare qualifications.

      The plan aims to resolve the numerical inferiority of South Korea's special forces, which number less than 20,000 against North Korea's 200,000. Each battalion will comprise five teams of 12 troops each and given reinforced combat vehicles as well as state-of-the-art weapons so it can carry out operations independently.

      The Army also plans to boost combat capabilities by turning some special warfare regiments at frontline corps, special warfare brigades in the rear area, and mobile and military police battalions at divisions, into elite units, a spokesman said.

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