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Key developments since May 2000: The leaders of North Korea and South Korea discussed the landmine issue at their June 2000 summit meeting. North Korea agreed to build a transportation linkage across the Demilitarized Zone requiring a major mine clearance operation in the DMZ in 2001, but the project has been suspended.

Related Report:

Mine Ban Policy

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The North Korean government continues to be largely silent on the landmine issue. It did not attend any of the major international meetings on the landmine issue in 2000 or 2001. The DPRK has been absent from the votes on the pro-ban UN General Assembly resolutions since 1997. North Korea has not signed the Convention on Conventional Weapons or its Landmine Protocol.

In one of the few public statements on the ban, Counselor Kim Sam-Jong of the DPRK Mission to the UN told the United Nations General Assembly on 4 December 1998 that his government fully supported the “humanitarian purposes and the nature of” the Mine Ban Treaty, but could not accede "for security reasons" under the present circumstances on the Korean peninsula.[1]

Production, Transfer and Stockpiling

The DPRK produces the Model 15 antipersonnel mine (a copy of the Soviet POMZ-2M fragmentation stake mine) and the APP M-57 antipersonnel blast mine with a rectangular body made of plastic.[2] The DPRK may have exported antipersonnel mines to other countries as APP M-57 mines have been found in Angola.[3] It is assumed that North Korea imported antipersonnel mines from the Soviet Union, People's Republic of China (PRC), and Eastern European countries in the past. No current information is available on the size of North Korea's stockpile, but it is likely to be substantial.


During the Korean War, the North Korean Army used “principally wooden-cased mines-Soviet-made...PMD-6s”[4] and captured American-made mines. One North Korean diplomat stated that "we use landmines in the area along the military demarcation line (MDL), solely for defensive purposes."[5]

While it is not certain how many antipersonnel mines have been planted along the Northern fence or inside the Northern sector of the DMZ, separating the North from the South, US analysts estimate the number "to be in the hundreds of thousands."[6] In addition to the DMZ area, North Korea may also have planted mines along the East Coast area between the DMZ and the port city of Wonsan.[7]

Mine Action

There is no official information about any past mine clearance, mine awareness, or victim assistance programs in the North. The DPRK has not contributed to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for mine clearance.

At the summit meeting between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, and South Korea’s President Kim Dae-Jung in June 2000, the landmine issue was one of the topics discussed between the two leaders.[8] On July 2000 at the First Ministerial Meeting between the two states, North Korea agreed to reconnect the Seoul-Shinuiju Railway across the DMZ.[9]

Under the agreement, North Korea is supposed to clear mines and rebuild eight kilometers of railroad from Bongdong station, near Kaesong, to the old Jangdan station at the Military Demarcation Line.[10] Chairman Kim was reported to have said that he “would mobilize some 35,000 North Korean soldiers of two divisions stationed at the DMZ for the task.”[11] On 25 September 2000, at the first South and North Korean Defense Ministers’ Meeting, the two sides agreed to set up a joint military working committee to cooperate on the mine clearance task in the DMZ corridor.[12]

Although the joint committee finished drafting a common regulation to govern the safety and cooperation of both armies in the mine removal/transportation linkage project, including the establishment of a military hotline for the project, the agreement was not signed as expected on 4 March 2001. The delay is apparently due to the angry reaction of the North Korean military to the publication of the South Korean Defense Ministry’s 2001 White Paper on Defense, which contained a paragraph that referred North Korea as the “principal enemy” of South Korea.[13] Further delays have been blamed on the more hard-line policy of the Bush administration toward North Korea.[14]

The joint mine clearance and transportation project was planned to be completed in September 2001. It will connect a 250 meters-wide, four kilometers-long corridor across the world’s most heavily armed border. If completed, it will speed up and increase inter-Korean trade.[15]

Landmine Problem and Casualties

It is likely that landmine incidents continue in certain battle sites of the Korean War. Occasional injuries--to both soldiers and civilians--due to mines in or near the DMZ are also likely, just as it is happening in the South. However, a North Korean representative claimed that “there are no instances of civilian casualties caused by those mines” in the DMZ area.[16] A North Korean official has said that there are no mine problems on the borders with China or Russia.[17] Although difficult to confirm, that appears to be a reasonable claim, based on testimony of refugees.[18]

A request for information from Landmine Monitor was submitted through the DPRK Mission to the UN in New York in November 2000, but there has been no response.

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[1] Statement of Counselor Kim Sam Jong, Permanent Mission of DPRK to the UN in New York, 4 December 1998, found in Official Records of the UN General Assembly, Fifty-Third session, 79th plenary meeting (A/53/pv79), pp. 8-9.
[2] See Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 2000-2001, pp. 186-7, and 482.
[3] See Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 2000-2001, p. 187.
[4] Mike Croll, The History of Landmines (London: Leo Cooper, 1998), p. 101.
[5] Statement of Counselor Kim Sam Jong, Permanent Mission of DPRK to the UN, 4 December 1998.
[6] Bill Gertz, “In Korea’s Misnamed DMZ, U.S. Defenders Rely on Mines,” Washington Times, 23 January 1998.
[7] In November 2000, the Landmine Monitor researcher saw a picture of an apparent North Korean minefield that was taken by an American tourist traveling through the East Coast area in the North in 1996.
[8] “Land Mines Are No Longer Our Allies,” Op-Ed., Washington Post, 14 August 2000, p. 21.
[9] Korea Update (Washington, DC: Embassy of the Republic of Korea, 5 August 2000), p. 2.
[10] Kyong-Hwa Seok, “S.Korea To Start Railway to North,” Associated Press, 17 September 2000.
[11] Young-Sup Lee, “Landmine Removal Starts Today,” Hankook Ilbo (S. Korean daily newspaper), 19 September 2000, p. B5.
[12] Chosun Ilbo (S. Korean daily newspaper), 25 September 2000.
[13] “North Korea Delays Railway Project,” Associated Press, 12 February 2001.
[14] “US-North Korean Talks Offer Ray of Sunshine,” Reuters, 7 June 2001.
[15] “Media Executives Visit N. Korea From South,” Washington Post, 6 August 2000.
[16] Statement of Counsellor Kim Sam Jong, Permanent Mission of DPRK to the UN in New York, 4 December 1998.
[17] Telephone interview with unnamed North Korean official, Tokyo, 26 February 1999.
[18] Interview with Buddhist priest Bup Ryun, Chief Executive of the Korean Buddhist Sharing Movement, Tokyo, 21 February 1999.