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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's spies had information indicating North Korea might attack a front-line island in August, but the intelligence chief dismissed it as a routine threat.
Yeonpyeong Island, a tiny enclave of civilians and military bases located near a disputed maritime border, endured a barrage of North Korean shells last week, and lawmakers in Seoul slammed the government Thursday for the intelligence failure. The surprise revelation came the day before in an unusually candid private briefing by spy chief Won Sei-hoon.
In the wake of the attack — in which two South Korean marines and two civilians died — the defense minister has resigned. President Lee Myung-bak has been criticized for leading a military whose response to the attack was seen as too slow and too weak: The North fired 170 rounds compared with 80 returned by South Korea.
Won told lawmakers that South Korea had intercepted North Korean military communications in August that indicated Pyongyang was preparing to attack Yeonpyeong and other islands in a disputed slice of sea that has often been the focus of North Korean aggression. Won didn't expect that attack to be on civilian areas and considered it a "routine threat," according to the office of lawmaker Choi Jae-sung who attended the closed-door session.
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