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Monday, March 4, 2024

South’s military alarmed by North’s apparent involvement in Hamas attack

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un examines the 122-millimeter shell used in its multiple rocket launchers on Aug. 7 during a tour of an ammunition production plant. [KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un examines the 122-millimeter shell used in its multiple rocket launchers on Aug. 7 during a tour of an ammunition production plant. [KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY]

Hamas’s attack on Israel has alarmed South Korea’s military, especially regarding North Korea’s possible involvement and Pyongyang’s potential use of similar tactics against Seoul.

According to the Joint Chief of Staff on Tuesday, some of the multiple rocket launchers found near the Israel border that Hamas militants reportedly used had “Bang-122” written in Korean.

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“Lately, we have repeatedly detected North Korea exporting various weapons to Middle East countries and militant organizations, including the 122-millimeter multiple rocket launchers found along the border near Israel,” said a JSC official. “We believe these weapons were used by Hamas or an organization that supports Hamas.”

The word “Bang” is believed to be the first word in the Korean phrase bangsapo, which means “multiple rocket launcher.” The number “122” is believed to indicate the caliber — 122 millimeters.

North Korea used the same rocket launcher when it bombarded Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, killing four people — including two marines — and injuring 19.

The official also added that the F-7 surface-to-surface fragmentation rocket, which appeared in one of the videos of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, is the name North Korea gives its exported RPG-7.

North Korea conducts a military drill including firing of the 122-millimeter multiple rocket launchers when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited an artillery unit on March 2020. [KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY]
North Korea conducts a military drill including firing of the 122-millimeter multiple rocket launchers when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited an artillery unit on March 2020. [KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY]

The JSC believes North Korea is not only supplying weapons to the Palestinian militant group but also offering other services, including operational strategy and training.

The Korean military noted the similarity of the tactics used by Hamas and North Korea.

In addition to making its strike at early dawn on a holiday, the Palestinian militant group had also taken down Israel’s defense system, notably the Iron Dome, with barrages of rockets and infiltrated after destroying surveillance and telecommunication systems with drones.

“Considering the tactics that were used, North Korea may have passed on its tactics or provided training,” the JSC official said.

The Korean military particularly noted the use of paragliders when Hamas militants entered Israel, a trademark tactic of North Korea.

“In the mid-2010s, when we completed the setup of a scientific alert system on the front lines that makes stealth invasion by land difficult, North Korea intensified its aerial infiltration training using paragliders,” the JSC official said. “In December 2016, North Korea disclosed a drill to attack Blue House using paragliders, which leader Kim Jong-un attended.”

North Korean special operation combatants of the Unit 525 engage in an infiltration exercise on a model of South Korea's Blue House in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended in December 2016. [KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY]
North Korean special operation combatants of the Unit 525 engage in an infiltration exercise on a model of South Korea’s Blue House in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended in December 2016. [KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY]

The official added that North Korea “may have passed on such know-how to Hamas.”

The JSC official said as North Korea has just witnessed how effective the tactic can be, it could use the same tactic to attack South Korea.

According to the JSC, North Korea’s gliders may evade radar as they are made from wood and maneuver at low altitudes.

The Korean military also concluded that the Iron Dome had limited the harm caused by the barrage of rockets fired into Israel.

“Of the 6,600 rockets fired by Hamas, 900 or so flew to their targets, of which Iron Dome shot down more than 700,” the JSC official said. “That’s a success rate of 78 percent, which shows the effectiveness of the Iron Dome defense system.”

The Korean government plans to develop Korea’s own Iron Dome, the Low Altitude Missile Defense (LAMD), by 2026.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]