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Seoul officials probed over inter-Korean defense talks leaks

South Korean officials who had been involved in the inter-Korean defense talks last month were recently investigated for allegedly leaking too much information to the media and thereby offending the North Korean delegation, a source here said Tuesday.

The government investigation into about 30 officials belonging to the defense and unification ministries here appears to have been conducted to prevent a similar situation should the two Koreas overcome an ongoing opinion divide and decide to hold further dialogue.

The Defense Ministry “conducted a tough investigation into the mobile phone records and activities of about 20 people who had either taken direct part in the talks or monitored them through closed-circuit television,” the source said on the condition of anonymity.

The Unification Ministry appears to have conducted similar investigations into nine of its officials, the source added.

Inter-Korean talks are usually broadcast live to and monitored by several security-related bureaus here.

The Feb. 8-9 talks were initially said to have broken down due to Pyongyang’s reluctance to include its apparent attacks against Seoul in the agenda of higher-level talks later that month.

But some Seoul officials believe the North Korean delegation was more angered by the fact their negotiation strategy and too much detail from the talks were released by the media, the source said.

A Defense Ministry official denied such speculation, however, claiming the talks were called off “solely due to” the North Korean delegation’s reluctance to talk about the March and November attacks on the South.

As the first official meeting between the two Koreas since Pyongyang bombed a border island and killed four South Koreans in November, the talks last month had been considered an important development in easing tensions on the divided peninsula.

The two Koreas have not set a date for more talks so far and North Korea threatened over the weekend to “turn Seoul into a sea of fire” should it go ahead with the joint military drills with Washington.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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