March 30, 2007:
Five years ago, South Korea decided
to upgrade its intelligence efforts in North Korea. South Korea already had
some good HUMINT (contacts with North Koreans and people who visit North
Korea), but wanted to get more visual and electronic information.
So far, over $400 million has been spent on what
became known as the Geumgang and Baekdu projects. It's largely been wasted. The
wrong equipment was bought, and the results have been disappointing.
Originally, the South Koreans wanted to use a high flying UAV, but none were
available to suit their needs. So it was decided to use a manned aircraft would
be a good substitute. Four Hawker 800XP aircraft were bought, for service
flying along the DMZ (Demilitarizd Zone) that separates north and south. But once all the sensors were installed, the
aircraft could not fly high, or fast, enough. The cameras used, which were
supposed to see 80 kilometers into North Korea, didn't, because the Hawker 800XPs
were flying too low. The resolution of the cameras also turned out to be about
a tenth of what was desired (able to identify objects about half a meter in
diameter). The aircraft were not as reliable as expected. So instead of having
one in the air 24/7, one was up about four hours a day. Other sensors placed
along the border also have much lower performance than expected.
The scandal in South Korea is not just about the
wasted money, and keeping it all secret for so long. No, the big deal is that
now South Korea must continue relying on the Americans for good photographic
and technical intel on North Korea.