At first, the spying missions North Korea was found to have conducted using unmanned aerial vehicles were regarded as isolated cases. However, another crashed drone that was found in Gangwon Province on Sunday, and drone sightings reported by residents, now bolster the belief that the North is frequently sending unmanned aerial vehicles on spying missions.
The drone collected in Samcheok, Gangwon Province, was the third in recent weeks after one found in Paju, a county in Gyeonggi Province that is adjacent to the Demilitarized Zone separating South and North Korea, and another found on an island off the west coast.
There is a number on the fuselage of each drone, which experts believe is the serial number of a production run. The Samcheok bears the number 35. If the inference is correct, North Korea has been sending numerous unmanned spying missions since at least October, when a resident reported a drone sighting for the first time.
The three collected drones showed little design and technological sophistication. Experts say that they were not advanced enough to carry out any military attack. The experts are working to determine if they were capable of defying strong winds and flying to and from predetermined coordinates.
Still, the Ministry of National Defense has determined that North Korea’s drones pose a new type of threat to the security of South Korea, which is already deeply concerned about the nuclear devices, missiles and long-range guns that Pyongyang holds in its arsenal.
The ministry, which had previously been smug about the rudimentary capacity of unmanned aerial spying missions, is now alerted to the security threat from the drones with good reason. What if the North decides to send a drone with a 1 kg payload of biochemical agents?
Moreover, North Korea may have already upgraded the unmanned aerial vehicles in its possession. Unconfirmed news reports say that North Korea put on display drones for attack missions during a military parade in April 2012.
A North Korean propaganda periodical ran a story in May on the possibility of striking South Korea’s presidential residence with a drone.
Against this backdrop, it is necessary for South Korea to develop its capacity for monitoring, identifying and shooting down drones that penetrate its airspace. Of course, it needs assistance from the United States in beefing up its defenses against drones.