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Country Reports
REPUBLIC OF KOREA, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: In April 1999 the ROK began a multi-year program to remove mines from around some military bases. The ROK reports that it has made all of its non-self-destructing mines detectable. The ROK produced 1,363 new antipersonnel mines in 1999.

Mine Ban Policy

The Republic of Korea (ROK) 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. South Korea was one of just ten governments to abstain on UN General Assembly Resolution 51/45, passed 156-0 on 10 December 1996, urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning antipersonnel landmines. ROK has also been among the few to abstain on the pro-Mine Ban Treaty UNGA resolutions in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

The South Korean government told Landmine Monitor in March 2000 that it “could consider joining the Ottawa Convention if the security situation on the Korean Peninsula improved substantially, or if suitable alternatives to antipersonnel landmines became available.... The ROK government agrees, in principle and from the humanitarian point of view, with the movement to ban completely the use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). However, the ROK cannot fully subscribe to the total ban on APLs.... [I]n a country under a constant threat of war like Korea, the landmine issue is not a matter of humanitarianism, but that of survival. Therefore, we cannot regard APLs issue the same way as other countries do.”[1] Asked if it would join the treaty if North Korea did so, the ROK replied, “We will consider this issue positively.”[2] South Korea has sent representatives to many of the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional work program Standing Committee of Experts meetings.

South Korea did not participate as an observer in the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty in Maputo in May 1999. It has attended the treaty’s intersessional meetings on mine clearance, technologies, victim assistance, and stockpile destruction.

While not yet a party to the CCW and amended Protocol II, South Korea has expressed its intent to accede in 2000.[3] The government states that it “is preparing national legislation necessary for the implementation of the Protocol,” and that it “has made necessary steps to meet the requirements concerning the use of mines set out in the Protocol, including making dumb mines detectable.”[4] The ROK participated in the first Annual Conference for Protocol II States Parties in December 1999.[5] South Korea 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.[6]


South Korea has produced at least two antipersonnel mines, which are copies or variations of the U.S. M18A1 Claymore mine. The Korean designations are KM18A1 and K440. Both are directional fragmentation mines, the K440 slightly larger. They are usually used in a command detonated mode, but can also be used with tripwires.[7] According to the ROK Ministry of National Defense, a total of 10,721 KM18A1s were produced from 1995-1997 and 1,363 in 1999, but “during the last three or four years, the K440 was not produced.”[8]

According to Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 1999-2000, South Korea also produces a licensed copy of the U.S. M16A2 bounding antipersonnel mine. The source lists the mine as “in production” and the manufacturer is listed as the Korea Explosives Company Ltd.


There is no evidence that the ROK government exported antipersonnel mines in the past. 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.[9]

The ROK government states that it did not import any AP mines in 1999.[10] It imported 40,324 AP mines from the United States from 1969 to 1992, including 31,572 ADAM mines which are fired from artillery, 1,035 non-detectable M14 mines, and more than 7,000 Claymore mines.[11]


The number and types of antipersonnel landmines in the South Korean stockpile are military secrets. However, in a meeting with the ICBL in February 1998, Vice Minister of Defense Lee Jung-Rin said that South Korea has twice the amount of landmines in stock that it has already deployed in the ground.[12] This would imply that South Korea probably holds at least two million antipersonnel mines in stock. The ROK states that it has already made its dumb (non-self-destructing) mines detectable, as required under Amended Protocol II.[13]

In addition, the U.S. is stockpiling in South Korea approximately 1.2 million M14 and M16 dumb mines and some 50,000 Gator, Volcano, and MOPMS “smart” (self-destructing) mines, all to be used in any future resumption of war in Korea.[14]


Landmines were used extensively by all combatant armies during the Korean War, and the U.S. and ROK have laid large numbers of mines since then. A Defense Ministry report to the National Assembly in September 1999 reportedly said that over 1.12 million mines were laid across the country: 1.05 million antipersonnel and antitank mines “around the civilian control line and the demilitarized zone,” and another 75,000 antipersonnel mines in “rear areas.”[15] When asked by Landmine Monitor, “How many landmines are buried in the ground in your country,” the South Korean government responded that “an estimated one million mines are buried in the DMZ.”[16] This figure of one million mines planted in the DMZ by U.S. and ROK forces has been cited by others over the years. However, a report by a retired U.S. general states that in addition to the DMZ, “about one million dumb AP mines already are emplaced in the six-mile-deep military control zone immediately south of the two-and-a-half-mile band of the DMZ.”[17]

The ROK and U.S. military have also planted significant numbers of antipersonnel mines around important military facilities in the South, some of which have created problems in recent years (see below).[18]

If there is war on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. is planning to lay more than one million additional “dumb” mines in South Korea -- not in the existing DMZ, but throughout the twenty mile area between the DMZ and Seoul. In addition, numerous self-destructing mines would be scattered by aircraft and artillery.[19]

Landmine Problem

As noted in a U.S. State Department report, “The Republic of Korea still has a problem with landmines from World War II and from the Korean Conflict.” The report says that uncleared mines are located “along the inter-Korean border and in areas in which Korean War battles occurred.”[20] According to the ROK government, there were forty-seven mine accidents from 1992-1999.[21]

The 151-mile Demilitarized Zone may be the most heavily mined area in the world. One South Korean legislator, a former army general, Mr. Im Bok-Jin warned that the DMZ will likely remain a “belt of death” even after Korea is reunified because of the huge number of difficult-to-detect buried mines. He also stated that the mines were not adequately mapped.[22]

In recent years, South Koreans have experienced problems due to flooding or landslides from heavy rains that wash landmines out of minefields or storage sites into areas frequented by civilians. In April 1999, the ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly said that only fifty-nine out of 321 landmines washed away by rainstorms in 1998 had been recovered.[23] According to Rep. Seo Chung-Won, since the 1980s a total of 1,430 mines have been washed away from fifteen military bases and only ten percent have been recovered.[24] In August 1999, military authorities warned visitors to the North Han River region to be on the lookout for mines spread around by recent rains and flooding; at least three M-14 antipersonnel mines were retrieved in a civilian area in Yonchon.[25]

Two other legislators of the National Assembly revealed in 1999 another aspect of the landmine problem in South Korea. According to Rep. Kim Sang-Hyun and Rep. Ahn Dong-Sung, only 570 of the 3,400 landmines buried to protect five Army bases were removed when the units were relocated. The locations are Uijongbu, Kachang, Kwangchun, Ahuhung, and Hadong.[26]

The Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines (KCBL) has identified the following landmine problem areas: Cholwon-kun, Eunhyun-myon, Koyang-city, Paengnyong-do, Paju-city, Pyongtaek-city, Sangnam-city, Tongduchun-city, Uijungbu-city, Yanggu-kun, and Yonchun-kun.[27]

Mine Clearance, Mine Awareness, Mine Action Funding

In April 1999, the ROK Air Force started removing thousands of landmines laid in and around four of the Air Force’s air defense sites in the outskirts of Seoul. Officials indicated the clearance was being undertaken for fear that mines might be washed away in heavy monsoon rains and endanger civilians. This was reported to be the first phase of a clearance effort lasting several years that will remove landmines from ten air defense sites -- seven in the Seoul area and one each in Pusan, Kangwon and North Cholla province.[28]

In September 1999, the Defense Ministry said it will clear mines every year through 2003 in the five rear areas of Mount Sumo (south Kyongsang province), Mount Homyong (Kyonggi province), Kachang (Taegu), and Kwangchong and Anhung (both in south Chungchong province).[29]

The South Korean government has participated in the Mine Ban Treaty intersessional Standing Committee of Experts meetings on mine clearance and victim assistance.[30]

There are no government-sponsored mine awareness programs. Since its formation in 1997, the Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines has produced a brochure and a picture book, and has conducted workshops and a media campaign to increase the general public’s understanding of the issue.[31]

The ROK government has contributed $430,000 to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance, including $55,000 in 1999 for mine action programs in Cambodia, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.[32]

Landmine Casualties

The Korean War probably resulted in many thousands of landmine casualties (soldiers and civilians), but the South Korean government states that data is not available for the period of 1950-1991.[33] Though rarely discussed, there continue to be new mine casualties. According to the official records of the South Korean government, there were ninety-one mine victims between 1992 and 1999, including thirty-four civilians.[34] The government says that there was one incident in 1999, when a civilian was maimed by an AP mine in Chungyang-kun, Choongchungnam-do.[35] The government states that there are only sixty-two landmine victims alive in South Korea.[36]

The actual victim figure is likely higher since the official number apparently includes only those who lodged claims with the South Korean government. As a result of lawsuits, the government had to make compensations totaling $213,000 to five landmine victims from 1992 to 1997.[37] The Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines has talked to many mine survivors who did not make legal claims because they were reluctant to create trouble with military authorities. Recognizing the shortage of reliable data, the KCBL estimates that, dating back to the end of the war, there have been more than 1,000 civilian mine victims, and 2,000-3,000 military mine victims in South Korea.[38]

Survivor Assistance

The government states that it “makes reparations to the surviving victims of landmines through the State Compensation Act. The victims are categorized into seven scales according to the severity of their wound. The Act stipulates various kinds of preferential policy treatment for the victims, such as tax cuts, employment advantages for their children and assistance in purchasing homes. For soldiers wounded while on duty, medical services are provided by the Veteran’s Hospital.”[39] The Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines indicates that as of October 1999, the national health insurance system covers victims’ expenses in fitting artificial legs.

The KCBL states that it contributed $20,000 for survivor assistance in 1999, including artificial legs and the medical expenses of an eight-year-old girl. According to KCBL, Church Women United of Korea will give 100,000 won ($90) per month to nineteen victims from April to October 2000.[40]


[1] Response of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations (NY) to Landmine Monitor researcher’s questionnaire, 21 March 2000. It should be noted that many military experts and retired officers, including a former commander of joint U.S.-ROK forces, have publicly stated that antipersonnel mines can be removed without jeopardizing the defense of the ROK. (See Landmine Monitor Report 1999 for more detail).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] See, Statement by the delegation of the Republic of Korea at the First Annual Conference of the States Parties to the Amended Protocol II to the CCW, 15 December 1999.
[6] Statement of ROK Mission to the UN (NY) at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, 15 October 1999.
[7] See, Jane’s Mines & Mine Clearance 1999-2000, and Eddie Banks, Brassey’s Essential Guide to Antipersonnel Landmines (London: Brassey’s, 1997), pp.200-201.
[8] Response of ROK Mission to the UN, 21 March 2000.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] 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 1983-1933, as of 11 August 1993.
[12] “Anti-Landmine Crusader Williams Receives Cold Shoulder From Korea,” Korea Herald, 4 February 1998.
[13] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 21 March 2000. See also, Statement by ROK at the First Annual Conference on Amended Protocol II, 15 December 1999.
[14] See Landmine Monitor 1999, p. 333. The U.S. may also have a significant number of ADAM self-destructing mines stockpiled.
[15] “Over 1.12 Million Landmines Laid Throughout ROK,” Seoul Yonhap, 28 September 1999.
[16] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 21 March 2000.
[17] Lt. Gen. (ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Alternatives to Antipersonnel Landmines, VVAF Monograph, Spring 1999, p.20. Gard cites the source as “In Korea’s Misnamed DMZ,” Washington Times, 23 January 1998. Another press account cites one million in the military control zone, and an unknown number in the DMZ. Susan Feeney, “Deadly Zone,” Dallas Morning News, 24 November 1997.
[18] Joongang 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. According to one source, about 100,000 AP mines have been planted around military bases. Sisa Journal, 18 March 1999.
[19] See Landmine Monitor 1999, p. 336.
[20] U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers, July 1993, p. 113.
[21] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 21 March 2000.
[22] John Larkin, South China Morning Post, 30 October 1998.
[23] “Air Force Removing Thousands of Landmines,” Korea Herald, 2 April 1999. A subsequent article said that 170 of 329 had been found, citing a military official. “Military Warns of Mines, Shells Spread by Flooding,” Korea Herald, 7 August 1999.
[24] “Military Units Fail to Recover Landmines,” Chosun Ilbo, 5 October 1999.
[25] “Military Warns of Mines, Shells Spread by Flooding,” Korea Herald, 7 August 1999.
[26] “Military Units Fail to Recover Landmines,” Chosun Ilbo, 5 October 1999.
[27] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 480-482.
[28] “Air Force Removing Thousands of Landmines,” Korea Herald, 2 April 1999.
[29] “Over 1.12 Million Landmines Laid Throughout ROK,” Seoul Yonhap, 28 September 1999.
[30] See http://www.gichd.ch/docs/minebantreaty/mineclearance
[31] The picture book, titled “Unfinished War – Antipersonnel Landmines,” was published in 1999 by Korea Church Women United, a member of the KCBL.
[32] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 21 March 2000.
[33] Ibid.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Ibid. The antipersonnel mine was washed away from a military storage site due to flooding.
[36] Ibid. This probably does not include survivors injured during the war.
[37] Ministry of National Defense, “The Present Condition of State Reparation,” 9 July 1998.
[38] Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 480.
[39] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 21 March 2000.
[40] KCBL draft report to Landmine Monitor, May 2000.