When Will the Military Awake from Its Snooze?

Two drones that crashed in Paju north of Seoul on March 24 and on Baeknyeong Island on March 31 are apparently North Korean. Although the two UAVs are different, they bear the same light-blue camouflage pattern seen on a similar reconnaissance drone that was spotted at a North Korean military parade in April 2012, while photos discovered in them, components used and North Korean-style writing make it highly likely that they were made in the North.

The UAV discovered near Paju apparently flew at an altitude of about 300 m, approached Cheong Wa Dae along the road connecting the northern part of Gyeonggi Province with the capital and took around 190 photos. It probably crashed on its way back to the North. The other drone was apparently on a reconnaissance flight over Baeknyeong Island while North Korea was firing around 500 artillery shells toward the maritime border on the West Sea.

Military and intelligence officials here were completely unaware that a North Korean drone was taking photos of the presidential office. If the UAVs had not crashed, authorities here would have never found out about these security breaches. The UAVs are perfectly capable of being mounted with 20 to 30 kg of explosives, which means they could be used in terror attacks against targets here.

They are admittedly crude, which has led to calls from some leftwing figures not to use them as tools to create a panic. But the Navy corvette Cheonan, which sank in March of 2010, was not crippled by a high-tech weapon but a simple mini sub and a conventional torpedo.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday described the situation on the Korean Peninsula as "grave" and vowed to "thoroughly crush the hostile U.S. policy against [the North] only by force." This shows he is intent on continuing provocations against the South. North Korea has already stationed bomb-carrying drones along the border. The South must prepare defenses against these elusive weapons.

South Korea's radars apparently cannot detect small drones, prompting calls to buy cutting-edge radar. But what is vastly more important is for troops to increase their vigilance.

The military said it could not with any certainty connect the UAV found in Paju to North Korea. But that sounds like an attempt at weaseling out of responsibility for the security breach over Cheong Wa Dae, which is only the latest in a long line of similar incidents.

The effects are predictable. In this case it emboldened North Korea to send another drone to Baekyeong Island a week later.

More important than expensive new radar systems is for the military to start doing its duty at long last and regain the trust of the public.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 04, 2014 12:55 KST