N.Korean GPS Jamming Threatens Passenger Planes

      May 10, 2012 10:18

      The instrument panel on a Jin Air passenger jet that took off from Chitose Airport in Japan's Hokkaido Prefecture on April 29 began to malfunction as the aircraft was landing at Incheon International Airport. The ground proximity warning came on even though the aircraft had not reached the landing strip.

      The pilot immediately switched off the GPS and swerved the aircraft in another direction. It managed to land after circling the airport, but the malfunction could have led to a major accident. Three similar incidents occurred at Gimpo and Incheon airports since April 28, all of them due to North Korean GPS jamming signals.

      According to the government, 667 aircraft were affected by North Korean GPS jamming signals since April 28. They include 618 Korean passenger planes, 48 foreign passenger planes, including 17 U.S., 10 Japanese and six Chinese, and one U.S. military aircraft.

      Ships have also been affected. In some cases, small South Korean fishing boats near the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea, the de facto maritime border, almost drifted into North Korean waters when their GPS malfunctioned.

      South Korea sent a letter to North Korea via the border truce village of Panmunjom protesting against the GPS jamming, but the North refused to accept it. Investigators at the Korea Communications Commission have verified that the jamming signals originated from Kaesong in North Korea, but South Korean authorities did nothing for 11 days while the North kept jamming the signal.

      Some government officials privately say Seoul should have done something about the jamming signals since they clearly constitute a provocation by North Korea. But the government claimed all flights and boats are operating normally using inertial navigation systems.

      Government officials here are busy passing the buck. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "The military should take the initiative in dealing with the North Korean provocation, but they are saying it’s not a big deal. We are already seeing apathy creep even though there are nine months left in this administration." But a military official said any move by the South's military could agitate the North. "It would be more proper to take a governmental approach seeking international cooperation."

      The government now says it is seeking cooperation from international bodies like the International Telecommunication Union and International Civil Aviation Organization to lodge a protest.

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