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Kim Jong-il’s death a huge intelligence failure

Seoul, Dec 21 (): North Korea announced Kim’s death on Monday, two days after the 69-year-old had died from heart attack while travelling on a train.

It was total intelligence failure of both South Korea and US for not knowing Kim’s death even after two days until reported by North Korean media.

South Korea’s two days of ignorance about events in the North, with which it remains officially at war, had revealed grave problems with Seoul’s intelligence-gathering, officials admitted on Tuesday.

Won Sei-hoon, the head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), told a parliamentary committee that he had learned of Kim’s death after the announcement by the North, while Kim Kwan-jin, the defence minister, said he only heard about it after watching the news.

“Figuring out Kim Jong-il’s death under the current defence intelligence system is somewhat limited, but I desperately felt the need to beef up our intelligence capacity,” defence minister Kim Kwan-jin said during a defence parliamentary meeting.

“The defence minister was up in parliament and he received a grilling, we are told, by members of parliament here over the fact that it seems – and there are growing corroborations – that South Korea knew nothing about the death of the former dictator of North Korea until it was broadcast on North Korean television,” a television reporter said.

“This shows a big loophole in our intelligence-gathering network on North Korea,” Kwon Seon-taek, an opposition South Korean lawmaker, told.

Highly sensitive antennae along the border between South and North Korea pick up electronic signals. South Korean intelligence officials interview thousands of North Koreans who defect to the South each year.

And yet remarkably little is known about the inner workings of the North Korean government. Pyongyang, officials said, keeps sensitive information limited to a small circle of officials, who do not talk.

South Korean military chiefs said on Monday the country had stepped up border air surveillance, with Seoul asking the US, which stations 28,500 troops in the South, to also step up monitoring by planes and satellites.