News / Asia

    S. Korea Complains About North's Alleged GPS Jamming

    A TomTom navigation device is seen in this photo illustration taken in Amsterdam February 28, 2012.
    A TomTom navigation device is seen in this photo illustration taken in Amsterdam February 28, 2012.
    South Korea is to file formal complaints with Pyongyang and relevant United Nations agencies about jamming of Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver frequencies that it contends emanates from North Korea.

    On the 12th consecutive day of interference to GPS receivers in parts of South Korea, the government here declared it has had enough.

    Complaints to Pyongyang, UN agencies

    Kim Choon-oh, director of air navigation facilities at the Transport Ministry, says complaints about North Korea's intentional jamming of the satellite-based navigational system will be sent to Pyongyang, the International Telecommunications Union and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

    Kim says it is difficult to predict how North Korea will respond, but the most important thing is for them to stop the interference.

    North Korea denied GPS jamming when a complaint was filed last year and Kim acknowledges that could be their response again. He laments, under existing international agreements, there is no recourse to impose penalties or sanctions for such interference.

    Not the first time

    This is the third time Seoul has accused Pyongyang of GPS jamming. But it is the most extensive period.

    Authorities here say the interference has been detected, since April 28th, in the cockpits of nearly 700 airliners and on the decks of more than 175 maritime vessels. But officials say safety has not been compromised as transportation can utilize other equipment for accurate navigation.

    Planes using Incheon and Gimpo airports, which serve the South Korean capital, have been affected, as well as civil aircraft flying over the Korean peninsula.

    Jamming believed to emanate from Kaesong area

    U.S military forces based in South Korea are not commenting about whether the interference has affected any operations. There are more than 28,000 American military personnel in the country.

    In  2010, South Korea's defense minister blamed the first round of GPS jamming on Russian-made equipment operating in North Korea that was said to be capable of disrupting guided weapons.

    A second round of similar interference affected navigation receivers, including those in some mobile phones in Seoul, in March of last year.

    This latest round of jamming, believed to emanate from the Kaesong area, just north of the DMZ, comes following a significantly increased level of verbal threats directed at South Korea from Pyongyang.

    The two Koreas have no diplomatic relations and fought a three year civil war to a stalemate in 1953.   A truce was agreed to but no peace treaty was ever signed.

    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

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