South Korean Government Admits North Korean Drone Penetrated Presidential Office Security Zone

As the world deals with a constant flood of drone footage coming from the Russo-Ukrainian War, the North Koreans have been testing drones of their own in restricted air space, near the Presidential compound in Seoul. There has been no wreckage shown or video released of the North Korean UAV that flew near the P-73 security zone in late December but the incursion has been confirmed. The zone contains sensitive government centers and diplomatic areas as well as residential business areas.

Military officials of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffstated that “given the distance, altitude and the enemy’s capabilities, we believe it was not able to take photos at that time”. Earlier, before this announcement the JCS repeatedly denied any penetration by these unmanned aerial vehicles which spokesmen Col. Lee Sung-jun subsequently conceded that the denials were “regrettable.” However, opposition lawmaker Youn Kun-young reported that the South Korean intelligence services couldn’t rule out that the drone in question did not film the presidential office nor areas of national security. 

South Korea KA-1 light attack aircraft that were scrambled late December, 2022 (Republic of Korea Armed Forces)

In response the South Korean military conducted live fire air-defense drills involving both air and ground forces of the South Korean military with a focus on anti-drone exercises with 50 aircraft, including KA-1 light attack planes and 500MD helicopters, with ground troops armed with drone jammer guns. This new threat poses a unique obstacle to South Korea and her allies as they deal with a North Korean regime that is focused on narrowing the military gap between the two Korean states by any means necessary. Comparatively simple and relatively cheap small unmanned aerial vehicles poss an asymmetric threat which even sophisticated militaries are struggling to counter.

South Korean soldiers operate a short range surface to air missile system during a military exercise in Yangju, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022 (RoK Defense Ministry)

There is increasing focus on countering drone intrusions to sensitive areas which could pose both a military as well as a security threat to the entire region. John Kirby, National Security Council (NSC) coordinator, pledged U.S support for expanding intelligence and resources for allies in the region as they try to deal with mounting threats from Pyongyang which will play a major role in counteracting the tactics the DPRK will continue to use and expand upon.

Header image: A map JCS submitted to the parliament’s defense committee on Dec. 29 shows the likely route of the DPRK drones (via Congressman Kim Byeong-joo’s office)