+   *    +     +     
About Us 
The Issues 
Our Research Products 
Order Publications 
Press Room 
Resources for Monitor Researchers 
REPUBLIC OF KOREA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

South Korea has not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. While acknowledging the humanitarian consequences of antipersonnel mines, the ROK is one of the governments that has been most vocal in insisting on the legitimacy and military necessity of continued use of antipersonnel landmines. The ROK has said it must retain mines until there is no longer a threat from North Korea, or until an effective alternative to antipersonnel mines is found. In his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly on 17 November 1998, Ambassador Lee See-young said that although the ROK was not in a position at present to subscribe to the total ban, due to its unique security situation, it would be able to accede to the Ottawa Convention if and when a durable peace mechanism was established on the Korean peninsula or a viable alternative to antipersonnel mines was developed.[1]

South Korea attended all of the treaty preparatory meetings of the Ottawa Process, the negotiations in Oslo, and the treaty signing conference in Ottawa in December 1977, but in each case only as an observer. South Korea did not endorse the pro-ban treaty Brussels Declaration in June 1997. It was one of only ten governments to abstain on U.N. General Assembly Resolution 51/45, passed 156-0 on 10 December 1996, urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning antipersonnel landmines. It was also among the small number of states to abstain on the 1997 UNGA Resolution 52/38A supporting the December treaty signing, and the 1998 UNGA Resolution A/C.1/53/L.33 welcoming the addition of new states to the MBT, urging its full realization and inviting state parties and observers to the First Meeting of State Parties in Mozambique.

South Korea recognizes the humanitarian crisis caused by antipersonnel mines. According to a 1997 policy statement: “The Republic of Korea fully shares the concerns of the international community over the scourge of antipersonnel landmines. We are well aware of the fact that the proliferation of APLs and their indiscriminate and irresponsible use have caused a great deal of sufferings and casualties, particularly among civilian population. Therefore we agree with the emerging consensus that the international community must stop this.... [Korea has] sympathy with the efforts of the international community to contain, minimize, and if possible to stop the tragic humanitarian consequences of APLs.”[2]

The ROK maintains however, that it has a “unique situation that prevents her from fully subscribing to the complete ban on the use of APLs.... The ROK cannot at this time fully endorse international efforts to ban APLs until the North Korean military threat is diffused or an equally effective alternative to APLs becomes available.”[3]

The ROK position is that mines are needed both as a deterrent, and for their combat value. “The use of APLs on the Korean peninsula has been an essential element in deterring the possible aggression. It has helped prevent the recurrence of another devastating war.... Mining along the north-south invasion routes would work to slow down and break up a North Korean attack.... Minefields have been an indispensable component of our defensive barrier system.... APLs have thus served as a powerful deterrent to military adventurism in Korea and will continue to do so.”[4]

These arguments were made forcefully by the ROK and by the United States during the Oslo treaty negotiations, when the U.S. formally proposed an exception in the treaty for mine use in Korea. But they were rejected by the almost ninety other governments participating. Negotiators, including some of the closest military allies of the U.S. and ROK, believed that the exception would undermine the treaty in a fundamental way, and that others would then insist on their own geographic exceptions.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines argued that, “While the geopolitical situation in Korea may be unique, the requirement for and impact of the use of AP mines is not.... The case cannot be made that only in Korea does the military utility of AP mines outweigh the humanitarian costs.”[5]

Several former commanders of joint U.S.-ROK forces in South Korea have stated that antipersonnel mines can be safely eliminated from the ROK.[6] Mr. Lee Yang Ho, a former ROK Minister of National Defense, has suggested that North and South Korea should get rid of their landmines jointly.[7]

South Korea is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons or its Landmine Protocol, though the government has told the National Assembly that it would like to accede to the CCW and amended Protocol II in 1999.[8] It is a member of the Conference on Disarmament, and has expressed a willingness to join efforts to negotiate an AP mine transfer ban in the CD.[9]


South Korea has produced two antipersonnel mines, both of which are copies of the U.S. M18A1 Claymore mine. The Korean designations are K440 and KM18A1; the K440 is slightly larger. The K440 is made by Daewoo Corporation, the KM18A1 by Korean Explosives Ltd. They are directional fragmentation mines that are usually used in a command detonated mode, but can also be used with tripwires.[10] According to the ROK Ministry of National Defense, a total of 10,721 M18A1s were produced from 1995-1997.[11]


There is no evidence that the ROK government has ever exported antipersonnel mines. On 28 September 1995, the government announced a formal one-year moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines, which was extended in 1996. In 1997, the government decided to extend the moratorium for an indefinite period.[12]

South Korea imported 40,324 AP mines from the United States from 1969 to 1992 when a U.S. export moratorium went into effect. The final purchase was 31,572 ADAM mines from 1986-88, for $4.07 million. These are so-called “smart” mines that self-destruct in four to forty-eight hours. They are fired from artillery. South Korea is one of only a handful of nations to which the U.S. provided these mines. The U.S. shipped 1,035 non-detectable M14 blast mines in 1970, and more than 7,000 M-18A1 Claymore mines from 1969-1973.[13]


The number of antipersonnel landmines in the South Korean stockpile is a military secret. In a meeting with the ICBL in February 1998, Vice Minister of Defense Lee Jung-rin said that Korea has twice the amount of deployed landmines held in stock.[14] It is commonly asserted that one million mines are deployed by the ROK in the Demilitarized Zone. The U.S. government has publicly stated that the U.S. is stockpiling approximately one million M14 and M16 “dumb” (non-self-destructing) mines in Korea. (See U.S. country report for details).


Landmines were used extensively by all combatant armies during the Korean War. According to U.S. Army documents, it was the U.S., not North Korea, which introduced mines en masse into Korea and the U.S. lost control of the weapon shortly thereafter. U.S. minefields were easily breached during the Korean War, sending U.S. troops retreating through their own unmarked minefields. More U.S. Army mine casualties in Korea were caused by U.S. defensive minefields than by the enemy’s mines. The main source of landmines for the enemy in Korea was captured U.S. mines.[15]

There are an estimated one million mines planted by the ROK and the U.S. in the Demilitarized Zone.[16] Mines were also allegedly planted in large numbers in 1962 during tensions surrounding the Cuban missile crisis.[17] Landmines may also be planted by the ROK and the U.S. around their military facilities and strategic locations elsewhere in the country.[18]

The Landmine Problem

The government maintains that antipersonnel mines do not pose a danger to civilians in South Korea. “The actual mined area on the Korean Peninsula is restricted to the 155-mile Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The minefields there are fenced and clearly marked. They are thoroughly mapped and carefully documented. And they are also closely monitored by military personnel twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Civilian access is completely denied. What happened in Angola, Cambodia and some other places in the world has not happened and will not happen in Korea.”[19]

Yet, casualties do still occur, mainly near the DMZ. A 1993 U.S. State Department report said, “The Republic of Korea still has a problem with landmines from World War II and from the Korean Conflict,” and notes that uncleared mines are located “along the inter-Korean border and in areas in which Korean War battles occurred.”[20]

Many of the casualties in recent years have occurred due to flooding or landslides caused by heavy rains that wash landmines out of minefields or storage sites and into areas frequented by civilians. In one incident in August 1998, it was reported that 200 M14 antipersonnel mines had been swept away by rains.[21] In April 1999, the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly said that only 59 of 321 landmines washed away by rain storms in 1998 have been recovered.[22]

Mine Clearance and Mine Awareness

In April 1999, the ROK Air Force started removing thousands of landmine laid in and around four of the Air Force’s defense units in the outskirts of Seoul for fear they may be washed away in heavy monsoon rains during the summer.[23] This is the first phase of a clearance effort that will remove mines from 10 air defense units, seven in Seoul and one each in Pusan, Kangwon and North Cholla provinces. ROK Lt. Col. Chung Sang-jong reportedly said that “Removing the landmines would require more guard personnel to protect the bases, but the decision comes in a bid to prevent possible damage to civilians when mines are washed away in heavy rains.”[24]

There are no humanitarian mine clearance programs in South Korea. Since the early 1960s there have been cases where civilians, especially farmers, have tried to clear mines from fields; some became victims. There are no mine awareness education programs in South Korea.

One Korean lawmaker has estimated that it would take US$10 billion to clear the mines in the DMZ.[25]

The ROK government has contributed $300,000 to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance.[26] In 1998, the ROK contributed to mine action in Cambodia, Tajikistan, and Ethiopia.[27]

Landmine Casualties

The government has claimed that antipersonnel mine “use in Korea has not caused any civilian casualties and inflicted suffering on their lives.... In Korea, the use of APLs has not caused and is not likely to cause civilian suffering.”[28]

Yet, according to the official records of the Korean Military Office, there were seventy-eight mine victims between 1992 and 1997, including twenty-nine civilians.[29] Records from previous years were destroyed after being kept for five years. These numbers apparently only include those who lodged claims with the Korean government which those who step on mines in areas not considered mined have a right to do. As a result of lawsuits, the government made reparations totaling $213,000 to five landmine victims from 1992 to 1997.[30]

The Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines has talked to many mine survivors who did not make legal claims because they were reluctant to make trouble with the military authorities, or were afraid they would lose. Recognizing the shortage of reliable data, the Korean Campaign estimates that, dating back to the war, there have been more than 1,000 civilian mine victims, and 2,000-3,000 military mine victims in South Korea.

The Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines has undertaken a search for mine victims throughout the country. It has interviewed 27 victims or their relatives; records of the interviews are available.

Mine accidents occurred while civilians were walking on a beach, picking wild vegetables, fruit and herbs, gathering firewood, working in a melon field, a bean field, a rice field, hunting, wading in streams, and other activities.

According to the Korean Campaign, mine incidents have occurred in:

* Paengnyong-do. Paengnyongdo is an island in the north-westernmost point in South Korea. The government laid landmines on the northern beach of the island. There have been about 27 victims, including civilians. One of the residents testified that 7 civilians were hurt by landmines and 6 of them had died as a result. There are no warning signs or barriers.

* Marine camp in Jinchon-ri. Several accidents have occurred here. There is a mined area with no guards, no signs and no barriers.

* Papyong-myon, Paju-city, Keyongki-do. This area is near the DMZ. Many mines were laid in this area and they have often been washed away by rain. Once there was a landmine accident in Inchon-city which was presumed to have occurred due to flow from this area. 11 victims are recorded.

* Nogok-ri village. Mines were planted here in the early 1960s, including some in private fields. More than 10 victims live in this village.

*Daekwang-ri village. Every summer landmines carried away by rain plague this village. More than 10 victims live in this village.

* Baekhak-myon, Yonchon-kun, Keyongki-do. Workers in fields encounter mines that have been washed out of the minefields by flooding.

* Haean-myon, Yanggu-kun, Kangwon-do. A man working at the government office for 30 years could recall 24 mine victims in that time. This is very close to the DMZ.

* Daema-ri, Chorwon-kun, Kangwon-do. On 30 August of each year, villagers hold a memorial ceremony for victims of landmines. The population is about 900 and there have been between 40 and 50 mine victims over the past 30 years.

* Saengchang-ri, Kimhea-eup, Chorwon-kun, Kangwon-do. There are about 25 victims in a population of 500.

The Korean Campaign is compiling a record of landmine incidents, which currently has about 100 entries and is available to interested readers. Below are some recent incidents:

6 April 1998: Songnam-city, Keyongki-do, landmines laid near the air base were carried away to the valley by rain.

22 April 1998: Doshin-ri, Shinseo-myon, Yonchon-kun, Keyongki-do, Mr. Kim, Ju-Kwon (62) was killed by a landmine at the foot of a Yawolsan mountain while picking wild vegetables.

20 May 1998: Woisungdong-ri, Wonnam-myon,Chorwon-kun, Kangwon-do, three soldiers killed and one injured by landmine in the DMZ area.

July 1998: Byekje-dong, Dukyang-ku, Koyang-city, Keyongki-do, landmines were carried away by rain.

July 1998: Galgok-ri, Pobwon-eup, Paju-city, Keyongki-do, landmines were carried away by rain.

1 August 1998: Galgok-ri, Pobwon-eup, Paju-city, Keyongki-do, the army informed that landmines laid in 1980s were carried away by rain.

6 August 1998: Tongduchon-city, Keyongki-do, US army storage site was flooded and ten containers with landmines were carried away.

7 August 1998: Byekje-dong, Dukyang-gu, Koyang-city, Keyongki-do, army storage site was flooded, landmines washed away.

8 August 1998: Wonchang-dong, Seo-ku, Inchon-city, at the beach of the island Seodo, Mr. Shin, Dong-sun (45) stepped on a landmine carried by rain.

9 August 1998: Jangheung-myon, Yanggu-kun, Keyongki-do, at the rest place in Songchu valley, a antitank landmine was found.

10 August 1998: Anjung-ri, Paengseong-eup, Pyongtaek-city, landmines were carried away by rain at the air base.

10 August 1998: Hyunduk-myon, Pyongtaek-city, landmines were carried away by rain at the air base.

10 August 1998: Jangheung-myon, Yangju-kun, Keyongki-do, at the army storage site, landmines carried away by rain.

10 August 1998: Dukjung-ri, Eunhyun-myon, Keyongki-di, the air force reported that landmines were carried away by rain.

12 August 1998: Ganeung3-dong, uijongbu-city, Keyongki-do, at a position near the air base, three landmines found and collected.

13 August 1998: Haean-myon, Yanggu-kun, Kangwon-do, Mrs. Baek, Chun-Oak (62) stepped on a landmine at the edge of a stream.

28 August 1998: Byekje-dong, Dukyang-gu, Koyang-city, Mr. Baek, Young-Gil (37) found a landmine at a residential area.

12 October 1998: Anheung-myon, Taean-kun, Chungchongnam-do, Mr. Han, Kwang-Seok (36) stepped on a landmine while working on a telephone line at the Scientific Research Institute for National Defense.


[1] United Nations General Assembly, Press Release GA/9505, 17 November 1998.

[2] ROK Foreign Ministry statement, “Banning Antipersonnel Landmine: Republic of Korea’s Security Situation Must Be Given Special Consideration,” undated but 1997.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] ICBL Statement to Oslo Diplomatic Conference, “Say No to the US Demand for a Korea Exception,” September 1997.

[6] Such statements from several former commanders are contained in ICBL, “Report on Activities, Diplomatic Conference on an International Total Ban on Antipersonnel Landmines,” November 1997.

[7] Response to the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly, 6 August 1996.

[8] ROK Ministry of National Defense, Statement to National Assembly, October 1998.

[9] Ministry of National Defense, response to Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines, 19 February 1999.

[10] Eddie Banks, Brassey’s Essential Guide to Antipersonnel Landmines (London: Brassey’s, 1997), p. 201; Jane’s Military Vehicles and Logistics 1993-94, p. 226.

[11] Ministry of National Defense materials, September 1997.

[12] Foreign Ministry Statement, “Banning Antipersonnel Landmine,” 1997.

[13] Data for exports prior to 1969 is not available. U.S. Army, Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command (USAMCCOM), Letter to Human Rights Watch, 25 August 1993, and attached statistical tables; U.S. Defense Security Assistance Agency, Foreign Military Sales of Antipersonnel Mines FY 1983-1993, as of 11 August 1993.

[14] “Anti-Landmine Crusader Williams Receives Cold Shoulder from Korea,” Korea Herald, 4 February 1998.

[15] Human Rights Watch and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, “In Its Own Words: The U.S. Army and Antipersonnel Mines in the Korean and Vietnam Wars,” July 1997.

[16] Yonhap (Seoul), “Cost of Clearing DMZ Landmines,” 28 October 1999, citing Korean lawmaker; Korea Herald, 3 October 1997, citing another lawmaker; Susan Feeney, “Deadly Zone,” Dallas Morning News, 1997; MSNBC internet news service, 25 August 1997; Hankyoreh daily newspaper, 27 August 1997.

[17] The Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines was told by a former battalion commander that they laid ten of thousands of landmines in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis.

[18] Jungang Daily News, 18 January 1999, claims U.S. troops have laid tens of thousands of mines around important military installations. See also, Bae, Myong-Oh, National Politics, Issue 56, March 1998.

[19] Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement, “Banning Antipersonnel Landmine,” 1997.

[20] U.S. Department of State, “Hidden Killers: The Global Problem with Uncleared Landmines,” July 1993, p. 113.

[21] Xinhua, “Over 10 tons of Ammunition Lost in Rains,” 7 August 1998.

[22]"Air Force removing thousands of landmines,” Korea Herald, 2 April 1999.



[25] Yonhap (Seoul), “Cost of Clearing DMZ Landmines Estimated at $10 Billion,” 28 October 1998, citing Rep. Lim bok-jin.

[26] “Assistance in Mine Clearance: Report of the Secretary-General,” U.N. General Assembly A/53/496, 14 October 1998, p. 29. According to the Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines, another $75,000 was pledged in 1998.

[27] Statement by HE Mr. Lee See-young, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, at the Plenary Meeting of the 53rd Session of the UN General Assembly, New York, 17 November 1998.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Korea Herald, 3 October 1997, citing Defense Ministry report to the National Assembly, indicates 35 killed and 43 wounded since 1992, including 29 civilian victims. Another source indicates the Defense Ministry acknowledges 36 casualties since 1992, less than half civilians, Voice of America, Korea/Landmines, 3 March 1998. Another puts the total at 41 military and civilians killed and 46 injured from 1992-September 1998, Yonhap (Seoul), 28 October 1998.

[30] The Korean Campaign has details on the victims and the claims. See, Ministry of National Defense, “The Present Condition of State Reparation,” 9 July 1998.