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Govt. agencies probed for alleged neglect in NK guard post verification

March 22, 2024 - 15:07 By Lee Jung-joo
In this file photo released by the Defense Ministry on Nov. 27, 2023, North Korean soldiers are spotted near a guard post being rebuilt with wooden materials inside the Demilitarized Zone. (Defense Ministry)

The South Korean Board of Audit and Inspection has initiated an inquiry into allegations that the Defense Ministry and other government agencies neglected to verify the demolition of front-line guard posts, which North Korea was supposed to undertake according to the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement.

According to both the BAI and the Defense Ministry on Friday, an inspection began Monday, following an earlier audit request from the nonprofit organization Korean Retired Generals and Admirals Defending the Nation on Jan. 23.

The organization has claimed the Defense Ministry failed to effectively verify the destruction of North Korea’s general outposts. General outposts are guard posts located along the southern edge of the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea.

In 2018 as part of the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement, South and North Korea dismantled 10 guard posts located within 1 kilometer of each other in the DMZ, covering the eastern, western and midland regions.

At the time, the South Korean military announced that 10 guard posts in the DMZ had been destroyed after sending separate teams of seven inspectors to each of 11 guard posts, including one that was not being dismantled but kept as a historic site.

However, after the North vowed to restore all military measures halted under the 2018 agreement in November 2023, several guard posts were rapidly restored with wooden materials, raising the possibility that the North may have preserved the underground facilities in 2018.

In January, some of North Korea’s guard posts were rebuilt with concrete, suggesting the North could then operate the posts at full scale, compared to previous temporary wooden structures.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik also cast doubt on the Moon Jae-in government's inadequate verification of North Korea's purported demolition of guard posts, in an interview with Yonhap News Agency in January.

"At the time of the destruction, North Korea seemed to have only destroyed the visible observation posts, leaving the rest of the underground facilities untouched," he said.

The Defense Ministry submitted documents to the BAI written by the inspection team that visited North Korea’s guard posts in 2018, which the BAI’s Special Investigations Bureau is closely looking into.

According to the BAI, its audit is to focus on allegations about the inspection team’s report being ignored, which reportedly read that there were doubts as to whether the North’s underground facilities had been destroyed as it could not be verified.