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(U) South Korean Printed and Internet Media Reporting: A Counterintelligence Challenge

y (U) Introduction: Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “…if you know your enemies and know
yourself, you will fight without danger in battles. If you only know yourself, but not your
opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will
always endanger yourself.” Everyday, we devote tremendous amount of resource and
effort to understand both ourselves and those around us. Open source analysis is one of
the methods we use to achieve this goal. As we conduct open source analysis, we often
come across information that may be deemed sensitive, especially to US Forces Korea
(USFK), or ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC); some of this information may even
be of intelligence value to a well-trained hostile. This article examines precisely these
challenges today’s major South Korean printed and internet media outlets pose on USFK
and CFC. This article examined 13 major South Korean printed and internet news outlets –
Dong-A Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo, Hankyoreh News,
Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, Kyunghyang Shinmun, No-Cut News, Ohmynews, Pressian, and
Mediatoday.co.kr. Of these outlets, Dong-A Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo, Seoul Shinmun, Chosun
Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo, Hankyoreh, Hankook Ilbo, Segye Ilbo, and Kyunghyang Shinmun has
both printed newspapers and internet sites. No-Cut News, Ohmynews, Pressian, and
Mediatoday.co.kr only have internet sites.

y (U) Political Biases of Sample Media: This article analyzed reports related to USFK, CFC,
and NK from 12 news outlets from 2001 – Dec 07. No-Cut News was analyzed from 2005
(based on its launch date). Based on this analysis, all 13 of the outlets were placed on a
chart where the X-axis represents pro- or anti-US bias and the Y-axis represents pro- or anti-
NK bias. The analysis
showed that the Chosun
Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo, and
Dong-A Ilbo articles had
the most pro-US and anti-
NK biases where as the
writings of Pressian had
the most anti-US bias and
Ohmynews had the most
pro-NK bias.

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y (U) Research Results: From 01 JAN 01 – 20 Dec 07, these outlets released 74,147 articles
related to USFK/CFC (Of these, 1,488 were about USFK/CFC OPLANs or CONPLANs, and
22,075 were about USFK transformation). Most of the articles bore low intelligence value;
however, some articles related to USFK/CFC transformation and OPLANs/CONPLANs bore
moderate to moderately high intelligence value.

y (U) USFK Transformation: Articles and discussions on this subject could be largely
divided into two categories: USFK relocation USFK’s transformation. Some of the
subcategories discussed in these articles as a part of USFK relocation are issues
associated with US base closings and return of closed bases to the ROK government.
Some of the subjects discussed as a part of USFK transformation are issues such as
strategic flexibility, dissolution of CFC, necessity for OPLAN revisions, OPCON transfer,
and transformation of USFK into Korea Command or KORCOM. Analyzing the 22,075
articles written on the USFK transformation since 2001, contents of these articles do not
seem to provide an immediate military intelligence value; however, they do seem to have
moderate political implications. The articles seem to have exposed certain sensitive
subjects that USFK and
CFC may not
necessarily wanted to
make public, yet.
These subjects include
necessity for OPLAN
revisions and USFK’s
transformation into
KORCOM. An “un-
named defense official”
is the most common
source for these
articles.

y (U) USFK / CFC OPLANs: Articles addressing USFK/CFC OPLANs or CONPLANs not
only mentioned the OPLAN/CONPLAN names, but their basic concepts as well. Some
articles even had easy to read charts that explained the difference between each of the
USFK/CFC OPLANs. A few trends became clear during this research: 1) outlets that
are pro-US or anti-NK actually write the most number of articles about USFK/CFC
OPLANs, but they tend to talk about these OPLANs in generalities (their necessities,

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strategic implications, etc.)


as a part of a larger
discussion about ROK
national security and ROK
– US relations; 2) media
outlets that have anti-US or
pro-NK biases publish less
number of articles about
USFK/CFC OPLANs, but
they are more detailed and
focused on the OPLANs
themselves; and 3) articles
related to OPLANs that
bore the most intelligence
value were found on the
internet versions of these
outlets under their OPED
or blog pages. As you
can see from the charts
and maps contained in this
report (Charts 3-1 and 3-2;
Maps 1 and 2), while
information contained in
these articles and
discussion boards are not
classified, they are indeed
sensitive. Release of this
sort of information would
certainly have both military
and political implications
from the information
operations perspective. In
this sense, information of
this type would certainly be
of moderate to moderately

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high intelligence value. Most


articles and discussions with
this sort of detailed information
usually cited an “un-named
official” at the ROK Ministry of
National Defense (MND) or
GlobalSecutiry.org as their
sources. A search of
GlobalSecurity.org did reveal
extensive and quite detailed
postings of OPLANs dealing
with crisis on the Korean Peninsula. No article cited of having a direct source inside
USFK or CFC.

y (U) Conclusion: Articles related to USFK and CFC are posted on the internet news and
blog sites almost everyday. Most of these articles deal with ordinary news events with little
or no intelligence value, but some contain information that makes one wonder if classified
documents were leaked / compromised. The analysis of over 74 thousand articles revealed
that political biases of the news outlets had no bearing on how much or how little they wrote
about USFK and CFC – the only variances were the tone and flavor of their articles. Two
major points that became clear through this analysis were: 1) media outlets that have the
anti-US or pro-NK biases tend to write more articles with higher intelligence value; and 2)
almost all of these articles were found on the internet versions of these outlets and not on
the printed versions. Based on these findings, thorough and continued monitoring of
internet sites of Hankyoreh, Ohmynews, Pressian, and some of the other media outlets with
anti-US and pro-NK biases is recommended. Analysis did not lead to any evidence
pointing to a single point of failure in information management on the part of USFK or CFC;
however, based on some of the information presented on the news articles, one cannot help
but wonder if there were informants (witting or unwitting) inside USFK or CFC headquarters.
As mentioned before, if a human source was cited in the articles, they all cited an “un-
named defense official” – who usually worked at the MND. There were no direct evidence
on these articles that suggested a source inside USFK or CFC; however, it would only
behoove us to assume that there may be sources or sub-sources within our organizations
based on the types of information that are being published.

MAJ Steve Sin, USA; JIOC Korea, J2X; DSN 723-4556; steve.sin@us.army.mil

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