Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Tensions rise as S Korea warns North of retaliation

WAR OF WORDS:Seoul’s military commanders have said they will take immediate action should their isolated communist neighbor attack, amid alleged Web site hacks

AFP, SEOUL

South Korea’s military yesterday warned it would immediately retaliate against North Korea’s “core command forces” for any attack, following a series of threats from the hardline Stalinist state.

Seoul’s armed forces held an unscheduled readiness drill yesterday due to a “series of peculiar activities,” a defense ministry spokesman said.

Cross-border tension has been high since the North’s military on June 4 threatened rocket attacks on the offices of South Korean media outlets for their critical coverage of Pyongyang.

Some of the North’s fighter jets flew threateningly close to the border recently, the spokesman said.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin ordered the drill so the military could “immediately retaliate against sources of provocations and supporting forces as well as core command forces,” the spokesman said.

“This is our warning aimed at discouraging the North from daring to provoke us,” he said.

The North’s military, in an unusual move, last week listed the coordinates of some media offices and said missile units and other forces had already entered the target information. It accused them of insulting its regime through coverage of a youth event which saw some 40,000 children tearfully vow loyalty to new leader, and son of former strongman Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un.

One Seoul outlet likened the activities to the Hitler Youth.

Another media outlet criticized by the North, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, and its English language sister publication the Korea JoongAng Daily, fell victim to a major cyber attack last Saturday, according to the Daily which reported the story.

The conservative South Korean newspapers were last week threatened by North Korea over reports they had run about the isolated communist nation.

Police are investigating Pyongyang’s possible involvement in the hacking, with the Daily reporting that both papers lost article and photograph databases while the editing system that moves copy was also destroyed, disrupting production.

The paper reported its connection to the Web site www.joongang.co.kr was cut off and a photo of a white cat and the statement “Hacked by IsOne” was posted instead.

The Korea JoongAng Daily added that the hacker connected to the Web site by typing in a domain address used only by employees.

Seoul says Pyongyang has an elite team of hackers and it has accused Pyongyang of staging cyber-attacks on the Web sites of major South Korean government agencies and financial bodies. In May last year, the South said a North Korean cyber attack paralyzed operations at one of its largest banks. Pyongyang says Seoul invented the charges.

Cross-border tension has been especially high since Kim Jong-un took over the secretive communist state following the death of his father in December last year.

Pyongyang since then has heaped insults on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and other conservative leaders, branding them “human scum” attempting to raise tension for political gains.

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