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Country Reports
Republic of Korea, Landmine Monitor Report 2003

Republic of Korea

Key developments since May 2002: In an unprecedented operation, South Korea cleared about 1,000 antipersonnel mines from inside the DMZ as part of the inter-Korean transportation projects. It also cleared 6,019 landmines in rear areas in 2002. The government confirmed it has a stockpile of two million antipersonnel mines.

Mine Ban Policy

The Republic of Korea (ROK) has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. In December 2002, the ROK’s UN Ambassador in Geneva noted that while the unprecedented demining operations in the Demilitarized Zone “should not be interpreted in any way as altering our position on the landmine issue, we earnestly hope that further improvement in the political and security situation on the Korean peninsula would enable us to take a more forward-looking stance on this issue.”[1]

In November 2002, South Korea abstained from voting on the pro-mine ban UN General Assembly resolution, as it had in previous years. South Korea did not attend the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002, and it did not participate in the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February and May 2003.

South Korea is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and its Amended Protocol II on landmines. In October 2002, South Korea submitted its annual Article 13 report required under Amended Protocol II. It participated in Fourth Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II in December 2002. It also attended all meetings of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts working on Explosive Remnants of War and antivehicle mines in 2002 and 2003.

South Korea attended a subcommittee meeting of the annual Defense Forum held in Tokyo from 28 to 30 January 2003. Session II of the meeting focused on efforts made toward banning antipersonnel mines in Asia-Pacific region. The participants agreed on the importance of a humanitarian response to the landmine problem in the region and emphasized that regional security should be built through trust-building and dialogue with a view to achieving a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel landmines.[2]

The Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines (KCBL), together with the Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines, conducted the “No Mine World Cup” campaign aimed at raising public awareness on the landmine issue during the Soccer World Cup held in Korea and Japan in June 2002.

Production, Transfer, and Stockpiling

The ROK government reported to Landmine Monitor that it did not produce any antipersonnel mines in 2002, including Claymore mines and remote-delivery self-destructing mines.[3] It also reported that it did not import any antipersonnel mines in 2002.[4] In December 2002, South Korea stated that it has “faithfully enforced an indefinite extension of its moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines since 1997.”[5] The Research Center of National Defense has begun research on alternatives to antipersonnel mines and is utilizing studies conducted in other countries.[6]

The Ministry of National Defense acknowledged that it has a stockpile of about 2 million antipersonnel mines.[7] This confirmed the previous Landmine Monitor estimate. The stockpile includes 960,000 M14 mines that were modified before July 1999 to meet the detectability requirements of CCW Amended Protocol II.[8] South Korea also holds an unknown number of self-destructing mines, including US-supplied ADAM artillery-delivered, scatterable mines.[9]

The US stockpiles more than 1 million M14 and M16 non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines, to be used in any future resumption of war in Korea.[10] Last year’s Landmine Monitor Report 2002 cited official US Army documentation indicating that the US stored nearly half of the 1,138,600 non-self-destructing mines designated for use in Korea in the continental United States, not in the ROK.[11] However, the ROK government in February 2003 told Landmine Monitor that the entire US stockpile of non-self-destructing mines is in South Korea.[12] The US also stockpiles remotely-delivered, self-destructing antipersonnel mines in South Korea.

Use and Landmine Problem

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the three-to-six mile wide Civilian Control Zone (CCZ), immediately below the southern boundary of the DMZ, remains one of the most heavily mined areas in the world.[13] The Ministry of National Defense has stated that 1,368 million square meters of land are mined in the DMZ and CCZ.[14] The number of mines is officially estimated at 1.1 to 1.2 million.[15] In addition, the ROK government states that there are about 44,000 mines in 31 military sites in “rear areas” south of the DMZ and CCZ.[16]

There are also significant “unconfirmed minefields,” particularly around Yonchon.[17] Yonchon County authorities have reported that unconfirmed minefields cover an area of 1,411,606 square meters in 25 villages.[18] According to KCBL, most unconfirmed minefields are marked with a small number of faded signs and decayed barbed wire. However, the ROK government in its October 2002 Article 13 report, declared, “units located near the borderline have amended a significant amount of mine field and mine area signs to enhance their visibility and recognition by the civilian population.”[19]

Each year, torrential rains sweep antipersonnel mines out of minefields. In 2001, it was publicly disclosed that more than 1,000 landmines have been lost since 1998, after being washed out of the minefields or military bases by heavy rains.[20] In September 2002, 84 antipersonnel mines were displaced in Gangneung, Gangwon province because of typhoon Lusa; the Army recovered 52 of the mines.[21] During the recovery operations, an Army officer lost his left eye and both hands in a landmine explosion.[22]

KCBL, with the support of Community Chest of Korea, conducted research on past use of landmines by the US Army. From April to August 2002, the KCBL research team visited about 60 US Army sites or facilities, gathered documents, and interviewed residents and landmine survivors living close by. On 15 January 2003, KCBL released its report that concluded that the US Army was responsible for most of the landmines deployed during the Korean War from 1951-1953, and during the Cuban Crisis in 1962.[23] The US Forces Korea (USFK) responded by saying that the report contained incorrect information, that the United States was not responsible for landmines in Korea, and that the US had shared all necessary information regarding minefields with the ROK Army for many years.[24]

Mine Clearance, Mine Risk Education, Mine Action Funding

On 19 September 2002, the ROK Army began its first-ever demining operations in the DMZ, as part of the two inter-Korean transportation projects to link railways and roads.[25] The two Koreas simultaneously commenced mine clearance in accordance with an agreement initially reached in July 2000, as well as a subsequent military security agreement on 17 September 2002 governing the demining operations.[26] The operations were completed in December 2002. The ROK Army cleared about 1,000 landmines in 225,800 square meters of land in the western section and 25,800 square meters in the eastern section.[27] Of the two corridors cleared in the southern part of the DMZ, one in the west is 1.8 kilometers long and 250 meters wide and the other one in the east is 1.2 kilometers long and 120 meters wide.[28]

The ROK Army used a six-step demining process in steep and rocky terrain and a four-step process in other terrain. The ROK used its German Mine Breaker and Rhino machines, and its British MK-4 machine, to clear mines in the western section (Gyeungui).[29]

In addition to the DMZ demining, in 2002 the ROK military cleared 6,019 landmines from the periphery of seven military camps and air force bases in rear areas.[30] The ROK military intends to clear landmines from thirteen sites in the rear in 2003, and to complete clearance operations there by 2006.

The government reports that, in compliance with CCW Amended Protocol II, ROK Armed Forces have updated 12,443 signs for minefields, and constructed wire-entanglements with a total length of about 116 kilometers around bases.[31]

The ROK states that it provides mine risk education to the civilians living in the CCZ via television, radio, and pamphlets.[32] According to a survey in the rear areas made by KCBL, the residents of 36 mine-affected districts have not received any mine risk education from the military or the local government.[33]

KCBL produced a video documentary “Landmine,” directed by Chung-hoon Chang, which was broadcast by Korea Broadcasting System on 15 March 2003.[34]

In 2002, the ROK government contributed US$100,000 to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund, allocating $40,000 to Laos, $30,000 to Cambodia and $30,000 to Sri Lanka.[35]

Landmine Casualties

In 2002, eight new landmine incidents were reported resulting in 15 casualties, of which two people were killed and 13 injured.[36]

In April 2002, at Kegok-ri in Kyunggi-do, six people including a 5-year-old boy were injured by a mine in a rice field, and in a separate incident in the DMZ, three Korean soldiers were injured by a landmine while trying to recover the body of a man who had been killed in an earlier mine explosion. In another April incident, a man was injured after hitting a K440 mine while driving his truck in Yongtae-ri, Pajoo city. Two months later another truck driver lost his sight after hitting an antitank mine. In June 2002, a 29-year-old soldier was killed by a landmine in Inje county, and a 33-year-old woman required an amputation after stepping on an M14 mine in Namge-ri, Yonchon city. In October 2002, a South Korean soldier was injured in a mine incident at Chulwon.[37]

In 2001, four new landmine casualties were reported.[38]

Casualties continue in 2003 with two new landmine casualties reported. In April, a 64-year-old woman was killed by a mine at Mt. Chun-dok, in Kyunggi-do province, after entering a minefield to pick herbs. In a similar incident in May a 72-year-old woman stepped on an M14 mine while picking herbs in a minefield.[39]

Survivor Assistance

South Korean civilian casualties of landmines can file for government compensation through the State Compensation Act. Medical bills are covered by the National Medical Insurance system. Soldiers injured while on duty, receive a veteran’s pension and free medical services from the Veterans Hospital.[40] Depending on the degree of their injuries, the government also provides preferential treatment for military mine survivors such as tax cuts and employment advantages for their children.[41]

While the government states that it pays compensation to civilian casualties of landmines through the State Compensation Act, it seems very few survivors are actually receiving any government benefits. The KCBL claims that the national compensation law has several limitations.[42]

In 2002, two landmine survivors won lawsuits for compensation against the State. On 3 November 2002 the Seoul district court ordered the State to pay compensation of about $100,000 to a civilian mine survivor and his family.[43] On 13 November 2002 another landmine survivor was awarded $8,000 compensation.[44] These cases represent the first time that the Court has recognized the State’s responsibility for a mine incident.

The Seoul-based NGO, Global Civic Sharing, supports mine survivors and other persons with disabilities in Vietnam. In 2002, 337 people were provided with prostheses, including 62 mine survivors.[45]

[1] Statement of Ambassador Chung Eui-Yong, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN in Geneva, at the Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II, 11 December 2002.
[2] Papers distributed by the Japanese Defense Agency at the seminar on stockpile destruction, Tokyo, 14 February 2003.
[3] Response to Landmine Monitor (KCBL) from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Director, International Arms Control Division, Arms Control Office, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003; response to Landmine Monitor (JK) from ROK Mission to the UN, New York, 26 February 2003. For details on past production of Claymore-type and other mines, see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 680-681.
[4] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003. Earlier ROK mine imports from the US are detailed in previous Landmine Monitor reports. In case of a renewed war in Korea, the US plans to transfer most of its M14 and M16 mines that are stockpiled in South Korea to the ROK Army. See, Human Rights Watch press release, “Landmines: Almost Half of Korea Mines in U.S.,” 3 December 2001.
[5] Statement of Ambassador Chung Eui-Yong, Fourth Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II, 11 December 2002. As discussed in Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 681, the moratorium apparently does not include Claymore-type mines. However, Col. Kim reported that South Korea did not export any Claymore-type mines in 2002. Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003.
[6] Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Response from Lt. Col Su-yong Song, Ministry of National Defense, to Landmine Monitor (KCBL), 14 May 2002.
[9] For more details, see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 544.
[10] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 333.
[11] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 681-682.
[12] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[13] Ibid. Sometimes the depth of the CCZ is cited as 3 to 12 miles. See Jeon Ick-Jin, “Rail Trip Offers View of North,” Joongang Ilbo (South Korean daily newspaper), 24 January 2002.
[14] Response of Ministry of National Defense to Lawmaker Sung-ho Kim, National Congress, Seoul, 10 October 2000.
[15] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 682, for various US and ROK estimates and details on types of mines. Some sources have estimated 2 million mines in the DMZ and another 1 million in the CCZ.
[16] Response of ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003. Last year, the government cited 49,149 mines in 39 minefields at 38 US and ROK military sites. Some of the minefields have since been cleared. Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 682.
[17] The ROK Army defines unconfirmed minefields as areas that are suspected to be mined, but for which there are not maps and other type of information. Such areas have signs saying “Unconfirmed Minefield Danger.”
[18] Yonhap News, 6 May 2003.
[19] Article 13 Report, Form D, October 2002.
[20] “1,000 Land Mines Unaccounted For,” Korea Times, 17 September 2001.
[21] Jai-kook Cho, “Campaign to Ban Landmines as practical task of Brighten One Corner,” in Brighten One Corner 2002, Anyang University Press, 2002, pp. 272-273; “Lost Landmines,” Yonhap News, 3 September 2002; “About 80 Landmines Lost in Kangnung,” Joongang Ilbo, 4 September 2002. In its 2002 Article 13 report (Form B), the ROK indicated that the Armed Forces detected and cleared 45 landmines swept away by rains.
[22] “Medal to Landmine Victim Officer,” Yonhap News, 24 December 2002.
[23] KCBL, “Report on Antipersonnel Mine Use by US Forces Korea and the Situation of Civilian Victims in Korea,” 15 January 2003, p. 23, www.kcbl.or.kr.
[24] US Forces Korea issued a statement (in Korean) on 20 January 2003 responding to the KCBL report.
[25] The projects will link up two major railways, the Gyeungui line on the west coast and the Donghae line on the east coast.
[26] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 541; Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 679.
[27] Response of ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003. Article 13 Report, Form B, October 2002, cites estimates of clearing 1,500 in the west and 400 in the east. Article 13, Form G, also states that 850,000 square meters were cleared in the process of constructing the Gyeungui railway and highway.
[28] Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003.
[29] Article 13 Report, Forms E and G, October 2002. Details on the demining processes are provided.
[30] Article 13 Report, Form B, October 2002. Col. Kim said 9,000 M14 mines were cleared from seven minefields. Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003.
[31] Article 13 Report, Form D, October 2002.
[32] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[33] KCBL, “Report on minefields of rear area in Korea,” 26 July 2001, p. 16.
[34] Omynews, 14 March 2003.
[35] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[36] The KCBL collects information on landmine incidents from various sources; see also Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 683.
[37] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[38] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 683.
[39] The KCBL collects information on landmine incidents from various sources.
[40] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[41] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 549.
[42] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 684.
[43] Yonhap News, 6 November 2002.
[44] Yonhap News, 18 November 2002.
[45] Information provided to KCBL by Global Civic Sharing.