'15 rounds hit coastal artillery base'
By Jung Sung-ki
About 15 of the 80 rounds fired from South Korea’s self-propelled howitzers in a counterattack to the North’s Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island hit a North Korean artillery base on the islet of Mudo, causing substantial damage, a lawmaker of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) said Thursday.
North Korea fired about 170 rounds from 122mm multiple rocket launchers and coastal artillery guns deployed in the Gaemeori region and on Mudo toward the border island. About 90 of them landed in residential areas as well as a South Korean marine base on the island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.
The South retaliated with 80 rounds from K9 Thunder howitzers, but the extent of damage in the North had been unclear.
“Of the 80 shots, more than 10 rounds were found to have hit an artillery base on Mudo,” Rep. Kwon Young-se, a member of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee revealed, citing photos taken by the country’s Arirang satellite and the other commercial satellite systems.
According to Kwon, some of the shells landed in between barracks spaced less than 50 meters apart. The K9 ammunition is said to be able to devastate an area 50 meters in diameter.
“I guess the North suffered substantial damage from our attacks,” he said.
In contrast to Kwon’s testimony, however, Rep. Kim Moo-sung, floor leader of the governing party, raised the question about the accuracy of K-9 counter-firing.
Citing images taken by DigitalGlobe, a U.S. imagery and information company, Kim said four in 10 shells fired from the South landed in waters off the North’s coastline, causing little damage to its artillery sites.
Kim said 45 of 80 rounds struck the North Korean mainland _ 30 in Gaemeori and 15 on Mudo, but most of these hit nearby hills.
“Based on analysis of satellite and aerial photos, it was found that 14 of the 45 rounds hit fields and rice paddies, not the artillery sites, in Gaemeori,” Kim said.
“The military had reported to the National Assembly that a K-9 shell could devastate an area 50 meters in diameter, but the photos show this is not true,” he added. “The head of the National Intelligence Service should thoroughly investigate how this happened and report the results to the President and the people.”
Meanwhile, a senior officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) hinted that the K9 howitzers had the wrong data on geography and other environmental factors of Yeonpyeong and enemy territory.
“According to on-site investigations, it was found that there were no problems with the K9 howitzer and the operational skills of the soldiers,” the JCS officer said on condition of anonymity. “More detailed probes are needed to find the reason why the shells hit the wrong places, but I suspect raw data put into the howitzers did not fit with the sea border area.”
The data should be readjusted to the field environment, including wind speed, trajectory direction and air density, he said.
The K9 Thunder, jointly developed by the state-funded Agency for Defense Development and Samsung Techwin, carries a 155mm/.52 caliber gun with a maximum firing range of 40 kilometers.
Turkey has built its own version of the K9, the T-155 Firtina, under licensed production.
As for arms improvement plans following the Yeonpyeong attack, the JCS officer, in charge of weapons acquisition planning, said his office was not considering the GPS-guided Excalibur rounds built by Raytheon of the United States, or the Delilah cruise missile developed by Israel.
The JCS denied remarks by NIS head Won Sei-hoon Wednesday that wiretaps in August had confirmed North Korea’s plan to attack Yeonpyeong.
The remarks sparked media outrage over the military’s perceived lack of discipline and combat readiness.
“It's not true that there was intelligence indicating North Korea might attack the five islands in the West Sea,” said JCS spokesman Lee Bung-woo said. “The intelligence in August was on the North Korean military's order to conduct counterattacks should the South launch an attack.”