The South Korean military publically conceded defects in its counter-unmanned aircraft operations. They acknowledge the absence of real-time information-sharing between the Army and Air Forces on airborne threats. 

South Korean forces initially failed to recognize the situation’s urgency and communicated via wire-tapped phones as North Korean uncrewed aerial vehicles entered South Korea. This information comes from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in an inspection report following the failure to stop the North Korean drones that flew over Seoul in December. 

30 officials were in the JCS’s inspection group. They identified problems in sharing information systems between the South Korean Army and Air Force and among subordinate elements on unidentified airborne threats. 

Communication Opportunities Identified

There was not an established system to connect the 1st Army Corps and the Capital Defense Command for real-time information sharing, according to military officials. They pointed out that the issue was identified and fixed following the incident. 

The 1st Army Corps used a wire telephone to share the situation on the cross-border infiltration. They did not use a high-speed situation dissemination or air defense dispatch communication system designed to share information swiftly. 

“But our initial assessment was that it was not an emergency situation that mandates us to use the systems,” says one of the officials. This indicates that it took time to identify the flying objects as North Korean UAVs. Another military official noted that the military has “admitted its inadequacies” in the initial assessment. 

The delay in acknowledging the North Korean drones caused a delay in issuing the “Durumi” warning alert system. The drone was first identified at 10:19 a.m., but the alert was not issued until about noon. 

“The military needs to master procedures, including prompt information sharing, timely issuance of alerts and force employment that can ensure the effectiveness of its operations, in light of patterns of activities of enemy miniature unmanned aerial vehicles,” the JCS said in a publicly-released report. 

Lee Jong-sup, South Korea’s Defense Minister, says North Korea intended to “identify the South Korean military’s capabilities and stir up internal wrangling and confusion” during a National Assembly’s defense committee session. Lee continued by noting that the South Korean military will “put all possible options on the table” if North Korea issues another cross-border offensive against South Korea (Source- The Korea Herald). 

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