NATIONAL

China stole South Korean secrets on drone: lawmaker

By Song Sangho
  • Published : Mar 7, 2011 - 18:15
  • Updated : Mar 7, 2011 - 18:15
China hacked South Korea’s secret military information on plans to introduce a U.S-made high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, last June, an opposition lawmaker claimed Monday.

Observers say Beijing may be unnerved by Seoul and Tokyo’s pursuit to secure unmanned reconnaissance aircraft as their bolstered intelligence capabilities could help the U.S. glean more intelligence on China.

“After we talked to the government authorities, (we found) last June, China hacked our military secret information ― the plan to introduce a HUAV,” said Rep. Shin Hak-yong of the main opposition Democratic Party in a press release.

“Based on the information, China has begun checking the moves by the U.S. to sell the HUAV through its state-run English newspaper China Daily, which argued that the plans by Korea and Japan to introduce the HUAV targeted China.”

Shin also said the current government is not taking due steps to lodge a complaint to China over the hacking incidents.

“When China was found to have hacked into South Korea’s computer systems between 2005 and 2006, the previous government made an immediate, strong protest against Beijing,” he said. “However, the current government remains silent without making any adequate protests to China.”

The Ministry of National Defense appeared reluctant to elaborate on the hacking incident.

“We are currently verifying (whether the incident occurred). When we get the result, we will tell you,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters.

In 2005, Seoul asked Washington to sell the Global Hawk drone, manufactured by the American aerospace and defense firm, Northrop Grumman. The U.S. Defense Department decided to sell it to the South in 2009.

Due to the budget constraints, the plan to introduce the drone had been postponed. Following the sinking of the corvette Cheonan last March, however, the government earmarked 45.2 billion won ($40.4 million) in the 2011 state budget to initiate the acquisition work.

The single-engine Global Hawk can fly at an altitude of 18 kilometers or higher for more than 30 hours. With an operational range of 3,000 kilometers, it is known to be able to cover not only the North Korean region, but also parts of China and other neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, there have been more than 20,000 hacking attempts on the government computer systems each year, according to government data, released by Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Sung-hun.

The most attempts originated from China. Of the total 21,899 attempts last year, 8,183 cases originated from China. The U.S. ranked second with 1,032 attempts, followed by Brazil with 282 attempts, Thailand with 255 attempts, Hong Kong with 239 attempts and Japan with 232 attempts.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)