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Country Reports
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Key developments since May 2002: North Korea for the first time conducted mine clearance in the DMZ, as part of two inter-Korean transportation projects.

Mine Ban Policy

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. North Korea has not attended any of the major international meetings on the landmine issue, including regional meetings where other non-States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty participated. As in previous years, the DPRK was absent from the vote on the pro-ban UN General Assembly resolution in November 2002. North Korea is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

The DPRK has produced antipersonnel mines, including the Model 15 mine and the APP M-57 blast mine, but no information is available regarding on-going production. Previous editions of Landmine Monitor contain the limited information available on DPRK production, transfer, stockpiling, and use of antipersonnel mines.

Mine Action

In 2002, the DPRK, for the first time, conducted mine clearance inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as part of the two inter-Korean transportation projects to link railways and roads.[1] Although the projects were first agreed to in July 2000, mine clearance did not begin until the US and DPRK on 12 September 2002 signed an appendix to the Korean Armistice Agreement that authorizes the construction of a railway and a road through the eastern sector of the DMZ.[2]

North Korea held its ground-breaking ceremonies for the transportation projects on 18 September 2002 and the following day the North Korean military began mine clearance operations in the DMZ. The operations were completed on 14 December 2002.[3]

The demined areas are reported to be relatively small: 500 meters long and 250 meters wide in the western sector, and 300 meters long and 100 meters wide in the eastern sector.[4] The number of antipersonnel mines cleared is not known. South Korea reported that it would lend North Korea an MK-4 demining machine during 2002,[5] but it is not known if this occurred.

North Korea allowed a South Korean bus tour to the Mt. Kumgang tourist zone across a temporary road in the newly cleared eastern sector of the DMZ on 14 February 2003, but then suspended such tours in March.[6]

Landmine Problem, Casualties, and Survivor Assistance

Landmine incidents are likely to occur in certain battle sites of the Korean War and in or near the DMZ. On 18 December 2002, a North Korean soldier involved in the road construction work in the DMZ lost his right foot to a landmine explosion.[7]

There are no official statistics regarding the number of North Koreans killed or injured by landmines. The North Korean government is reportedly helping disabled soldiers by setting up special factories. One such factory is the Kusong Disabled Soldiers’ Injection Factory in North Phyongan Province, which produces prosthetic devices and some medical supplies.[8]

An increasing number of international NGOs are now operating in North Korea, including two international agencies with programs specifically for persons with disabilities: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Handicap International Belgium (HIB).

The ICRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health and the DPRK Red Cross Society, launched an amputee rehabilitation program in a newly renovated prosthetic center in Songrim, 30 kilometers south of the capital Pyongyang on 16 July 2002. The center provides rehabilitation services and produces orthopedic devices.[9] In 2002, the center produced 230 prostheses, including 32 for mine survivors. The center also distributed 80 pairs of crutches and 37 wheelchairs.[10]

Handicap International Belgium is assisting the Hamhung orthopedic workshop in the production of prosthetic devices, and provides training for the prosthetic technicians and physiotherapists. In 2002, the workshop produced 735 prostheses and distributed 1,200 walking aids. HIB is also working with its partner organization, the North Korean Association for the Disabled (KASD), to prepare a draft legislation to protect the rights of people with disabilities.[11]

[1] For background, see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 541, and Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 679. The projects will link up two major railways, the Gyeungui line on the west coast and the Donghae line on the east coast.
[2] “DPRK, U.S. Sign Appendix to Korean Armistice on Opening Part of DMZ to Link Railways and Roads,” The People’s Korea (Tokyo), 28 September 2002.
[3] ROK Embassy in the US, Koreaupdate (newsletter), September 2002; Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang, 17 December 2002. Operations were temporarily suspended in November.
[4] “North Korea Observed Clearing Landmines in DMZ,” Yonhap News (Seoul), 21 October 2002; Koreaupdate, September 2002.
[5] Republic of Korea Article 13 Report, Form E, submitted on 11 December 2002.
[6] “Trial Overland Tour of Mt. Kumgang Begins,” KCNA (Pyongyang), 14 February 2003; New York Times, 11 March 2003.
[7] “DMZ Landmine Explosion Injures One N. Korean Soldier,” Joongang Daily (Seoul), 19 December 2002; “North Korean soldier injured in land mine explosion at DMZ,” Associated Press, 18 December 2002. The report was released to the media by a South Korean Defense Ministry official who received the information from South Korean soldiers at the DMZ who witnessed the incident.
[8] “Disabled Soldiers Contribute Their Might to Powerful Nation-Building,” KCNA (Pyongyang), 27 March 2002.
[9] “ICRC prepares to launch programme for amputees,” ICRC News 02/29, 18 July 2002, available at www.icrc.org.
[10] ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Programs, “Annual Report 2002,” Geneva, June 2003.
[11] Handicap International Belgium, “Activity Report 2002,” p. 24.