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Country Reports
Democratic People's Republic Of Korea, Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Democratic People's Republic Of Korea

Key developments sine 1999: In 2002, North Korea conducted mine clearance inside the DMZ for the first time as part of two inter-Korean transportation projects to link railways and roads. The ICRC and Handicap International have launched programs specifically for persons with disabilities. North Korea has made no public statements on landmines and has been absent from every vote on the pro-Mine Ban Treaty UNGA resolutions. Landmine Monitor assumes that North Korea continues to produce antipersonnel mines. In June 2003, the Supreme People’s Assembly adopted a new law to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

Mine Ban Policy

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The North Korean government has remained largely silent on the landmine issues. North Korea has never attended any of the major international or regional meetings on the landmine issue, including Ottawa Process meetings, the Mine Ban Treaty negotiations, and the annual meetings of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. In one of the few public statements on the ban, Counselor Kim Sam-Jong of the DPRK Mission to the United Nations told the UN General Assembly in 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] The DPRK was one of ten nations to abstain on the 1996 UNGA resolution calling for an international agreement to ban antipersonnel mines; it has been absent from every vote on the pro-Mine Ban Treaty UNGA resolutions since 1997. North Korea is not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

The DPRK has produced the Model 15 fragmentation antipersonnel mine and the APP M-57 antipersonnel blast mine, but information regarding on-going production is not available. APP M-57 mines have been found in Angola and Sudan.[2] It is assumed that North Korea imported antipersonnel mines from the former Soviet Union, China, and Eastern European countries. The size of North Korea's stockpile is not known, but it is probably substantial.

Landmine Problem, Casualties and Survivor Assistance

North Korea has acknowledged using landmines in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).[3] US sources have estimated the number at “hundreds of thousands.”[4] North Korea may have planted antipersonnel mines in other parts of the country.[5] During joint recovery operations conducted in various parts of North Korea to recover the remains of US soldiers missing in action from the Korean War, some clearance of explosive remnants of war has occurred, but no live antipersonnel mines have been found.[6]

No new mine clearance activities were reported during 2003 or the first half of 2004. In 2002, the DPRK conducted mine clearance inside the DMZ for the first time as part of two inter-Korean transportation projects to link railways and roads.[7]

Landmine incidents are likely to occur in certain battle sites of the Korean War and in or near the DMZ. However, there are no official statistics regarding the number of North Koreans killed or injured by landmines. The last known incident occurred in December 2002 when a North Korean soldier involved in the road construction work in the DMZ lost his right foot in a landmine explosion.[8]

The 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.[9]

Official figures indicate that there are approximately 36,000 amputees in the DPRK, but available rehabilitation facilities have the capacity to assist only 4,600 people each year.[10]

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

In July 2002, 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. The center provides rehabilitation services and produces orthopedic devices. During 2003, prosthetic training for national technicians continued and the dormitories were extended to accommodate 50 people during treatment. In 2003, the center fitted 841 prostheses, including 85 for mine survivors, and provided 395 pairs of crutches and 98 wheelchairs; a significant increase from the 230 prostheses fitted (32 for mine survivors) and 80 pairs of crutches and 37 wheelchairs distributed in 2002.[11]

Handicap International has supported the Hamhung Physical Rehabilitation Center and the Hamhung Orthopedic Hospital on the east coast since 2001. HI provides technical training, supplies, and assisted with the renovation of the physical infrastructure. Since 2001, more than 24 national technicians have received training in prosthetic production. In 2003, the center produced 698 prostheses and distributed 2,105 crutches and 380 wheelchairs. In 2002, 735 prostheses and 1,200 mobility aids were provided. HI also provides capacity building support to the Korean Association for Support of the Disabled (KASD), which is expanding its actions in support of persons with disabilities in DPRK.[12]

Although there is no specific plan of action, DPRK has a comprehensive system for assisting persons with disabilities; however, this system is limited by the economic situation of the country as a whole.[13]

In June 2003, the Supreme People’s Assembly of DPRK adopted the “Law on the Protection of Disabled People,” a new law on protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. HI and the KASD worked closely to provide advice and advocacy in support of the drafting of the law.[14]

[1] Statement by Counselor Kim Sam Jong, Permanent Mission of DPRK to the UN, 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, 2003-2004, p. 207.
[3] Statement by Kim Sam Jong, 4 December 1998.
[4] Bill Gertz, “In Korea’s Misnamed DMZ, U.S. Defenders Rely on Mines,” Washington Times, 23 January 1998.
[5] Based on the testimony of refugees, it appears that there are no mine problems on the borders with China and Russia. However, it seems that North Korea planted some mines along the East Coast area between the DMZ and the port city of Wonsan. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 541.
[6] Information provided to Landmine Monitor researcher by US Department of Defense employee, 10 March 2004. From 1996 to September 2003, 26 separate joint operations were conducted in North Korea. See, US Dept. of Defense News Release No. 698-03, 24 September 2003.
[7] See Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 619. The projects will link up two major railways, the Gyeungui line on the west coast and the Donghae line on the east coast. 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.
[8] “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 (Korea), 18 December 2002.
[9] “Disabled Soldiers Contribute Their Might to Powerful Nation-Building,” KCNA (Pyongyang), 27 March 2002.
[10] ICRC Special Report, “Mine Action 2002,” Geneva, July 2003, p. 31.
[11] ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Programs, “Annual Report 2003,” Geneva, 9 March 2004, pp. 12 and 26; and “Annual Report 2002,” Geneva, June 2003, p. 10; “ICRC prepares to launch programme for amputees,” ICRC News 02/29, 18 July 2002.
[12] Email from Bryce Fieldhouse, Country Director–DPRK, HI, 19 August 2004; HI, “Activity Report 2003,” Brussels, July 2004, p. 21; HI, “Activity Report 2002,” July 2003, p. 24.
[13] Email from Bryce Fieldhouse, HI DPRK, 19 August 2004.
[14] UNOCHA, “Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for DPRK 2004” (New York, November 2003), p. 20; HI, “Activity Report 2003,” 15 July 2004, p. 21.