Anchor: Seoul's defense chief has urged the military to thoroughly review operational procedures after a North Korean fishing boat reached deep into South Korean waters before it was detected. The incident has sparked concerns of inconsistencies in South Korea’s coastal security surveillance, as new information suggests the boat intentionally crossed the inter-Korean maritime border without detection.
Choi You Sun reports.
Report: South Korea’s military is facing mounting criticism after a North Korean fishing boat carrying four North Koreans managed to reach some 130 kilometers south of the de facto inter-Korean maritime border before being spotted.
Authorities were found to be completely unaware of the ship’s entry into South Korean waters, and had initially pegged the vessel as a South Korean boat when it was picked up by radar near the eastern port city of Samcheok early last Saturday.
The military said that although both a patrol ship and aircraft were operating normally at the time the North Koreans reached the port, there were weather-related and other limitations to detecting the small wooden boat.
At a meeting of top commanders on Wednesday, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo described the incident as "a very grave situation” and chastised the military, saying it must tighten discipline and psychological readiness to prevent such an incident from recurring.
Jeong called for a prompt review of the current operational vigilance system, adding he will hold accountable those found to be responsible for any shortcomings.
Meanwhile, more information has been ascertained regarding the four North Koreans on board the boat. The vessel reportedly departed from North Hamgyeong Province in the northernmost part of the Korean Peninsula.
According to the South Korean Defense Ministry on Wednesday, the North Korean vessel set sail on June ninth and pretended to be fishing near the de facto inter-Korean maritime border before crossing south late last Wednesday.
The boat engine was then switched off late Friday two to three nautical miles north from Samcheok, and reached land at around 6:20 a.m. A civilian reported their presence to authorities about a half-hour later.
According to a military official, two of the North Koreans said they set sail with an intention to defect and remain in South Korea. The other two were repatriated to the North on Tuesday in accordance with their wishes.
Choi You Sun, KBS World Radio News.