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Country Reports

Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea

Mine Ban Policy

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)―North Korea―has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. The North Korean government has not made any statement on the landmine issue since 1998, when a representative indicated that the government supported the “humanitarian purposes and the nature of” the Mine Ban Treaty, but could not accede to it “for security reasons” given the circumstances on the Korean peninsula.[1] The government has not publicly reacted to the February 2004 landmine policy announcement by the Bush administration that the United States will retain non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines for potential use in Korea until 2010, and thereafter retain self-destructing antipersonnel mines for use globally.[2]

North Korea has never attended a major international or regional meeting on the landmine issue, including any meetings related to the Mine Ban Treaty. Since 1997, North Korea has been absent from every vote on the annual UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Mine Ban Treaty, including UNGA Resolution 59/84 on 3 December 2004. North Korea is not party to Amended Protocol II of the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

North Korea has produced antipersonnel mines, but no information is available on ongoing production.[3] North Korean mines have been found in Angola and Sudan, but there are no reports of recent transfers.[4] The size of North Korea’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines is not known, but it is probably substantial.

Use and Landmine Problem

The only place where North Korea has admitted using landmines is in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), where US sources have estimated the number deployed at “hundreds of thousands.”[5] In addition to the DMZ, it is likely that North Korea may have planted some mines along the east coast and west coast areas in preparation against any possible military invasion from the sea. There is no information on marking and/or warning of danger areas in North Korea.

Mine and UXO Clearance

There is no information about mine clearance within the DMZ in North Korea in 2004 and through May 2005.[6] Some limited clearance took place in 2002-2003 linked to the projects to re-connect the inter-Korean road and railway.

In the process of joint operations in North Korea to recover the remains of US soldiers missing in action from the Korean War, some clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) has taken place in previous years.[7] There were five such recovery operations between 24 April and 12 October 2004, in Unsan County about 100 kilometers north of Pyongyang and at the Changjin, also known as the “Chosin,” Reservoir; it cannot be confirmed if UXO was found in these five operations.[8] The recovery operations have been carried out jointly by North Korea and US forces since 1996, by 27-member teams composed of both civilian and military specialists from the Joint POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) Accounting Command (JPAC) of the US Defense Department, with the assistance of North Korean soldiers. Included in the JPAC group are explosive ordnance disposal specialists.[9] One of the side benefits appears to be clearance of remaining UXO from the battle sites. Items found include mortar rounds, three-inch rocket launchers, bullets and the like. However, no unexploded antipersonnel mines have been found from the recovery sites.[10]

In 2004, the US and North Korea agreed to conduct five recovery operations during 2005. However, the US “temporarily” suspended the operations on 25 May 2005, after completing one recovery operation at Unsan County and Changjin Reservoir, apparently due to the rising tensions between the two governments over nuclear weapons.[11]

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

Landmine incidents are likely to continue to occur in certain battle sites of the Korean War, and in or near the DMZ, but it is not known if there were any new mine casualties in 2004 or in the first half of 2005.[12] The total number of mine casualties is not known.

The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) provides some medical supplies to targeted provincial, city and county hospitals. In 2004, IFRC distributed 26 orthopedic kits to hospitals with special surgical facilities to treat emergency and traumatic injuries.[13]

There are two international organizations that assist people with disabilities in North Korea: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Handicap International (HI). ICRC assists the Songrim Orthopedic Center, 30 kilometers south of Pyongyang. The center was closed for renovation from January to May 2004. During this reporting period, national staff from the Songrim Center and from the Ministry of Defense rehabilitation center received training in prosthetics, orthotics and physiotherapy. From June to December 2004, the center assisted 356 people, produced 381 prostheses (58 for mine survivors) and 11 orthoses (one for a mine survivor), and delivered 350 crutches and 64 wheelchairs. ICRC also conducted two training seminars on stump-revision surgery for more than 50 surgeons and nurses from six hospitals and rehabilitation centers in Pyongyang.[14] ICRC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense, will open another orthopedic center in Pyongyang in 2005, to treat disabled military personnel.[15]

Handicap International supports the Hamhung Physical Rehabilitation Center and Hamhung Orthopedic Hospital on the east coast. HI provides technical training and supplies for the production of above and below knee prostheses. In 2004, the center assisted 785 people, produced 837 prostheses, and distributed 110 crutches and 50 wheelchairs. It is not known how many were for mine survivors. HI is also working closely with a local partner, the Korean Association for Supporting the Disabled.[16]

The government reportedly provides assistance for disabled soldiers by setting up special factories.[17]

North Korea has a comprehensive system for assisting persons with disabilities; however, this system is limited by the general economic situation of the country.[18] Official figures indicate that there are approximately 36,000 amputees in North Korea, but available rehabilitation facilities have the capacity to assist only 4,600 people each year.[19]

The Law on the Protection of Disabled People protects the rights of persons with disabilities in North Korea.[20]

[1] Statement by Counselor Kim Sam Jong, Permanent Mission of DPRK to the UN, New York, 4 December 1998, Official Records of the UN General Assembly, Fifty-Third session, 79th plenary meeting (A/53/pv79), pp. 8-9.

[2] US Department of State, Bureau for Political-Military Affairs, “Fact Sheet: New US Policy on Landmines,” 27 February 2004.

[3] North Korea has produced Model 15 fragmentation mines and APP M-57 blast mines. See Eddie Banks, Brassey’s Essential Guide to Anti-personnel Mines (London: Brassey’s, 1997), p. 164, and Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 2004-2005, p. 211.

[4] Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 2004-2005, p. 211. In addition, a Guyana Defence Force official who requested anonymity told Landmine Monitor in 2002 that Guyana stockpiled “PMB-2” mines made by North Korea. This has not been confirmed. See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, pp. 485-486.

[5] Bill Gertz, “In Korea’s Misnamed DMZ, U.S. Defenders Rely on Mines,” Washington Times, 23 January 1998.

[6] A request for information to the DPRK Mission to the UN in New York in 2005 received no response.

[7] Information given to Landmine Monitor researcher by employee in the US Department of Defense, 10 March 2004.

[8] US Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, “Personnel Accounting Progress in Korea as of February 4, 2005,” pp. 1, 6. See also www.defenselink.mil/releases/2003/nr20030924-0475.html and www.dtic.mil/dpmo. Confirmation of UXO is not possible since US operation records are not available to the public.

[9] Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, News Release, 20 April 2005.

[10] Information given to Landmine Monitor researcher by employee in the US Department of Defense, 10 March 2004.

[11] “U.S. Halts Search for Its War Dead in North Korea,” New York Times, 26 May 2005; see also US Pacific Command Public Affairs, Press Release, 25 May 2005.

[12] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1019.

[13] Information provided by Dr. Ruben, head of IFRC office in North Korea, 25 April 2005; IFRC, “Annual Report 2004,” www.ifrc.org.

[14] Email from Matthias Kind, ICRC Regional Delegation for East Asia, 27 April 2005; ICRC, “Annual Report 2004,” Geneva, June 2005, p. 172; ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Program, “Annual Report 2004,” Geneva, June 2005, pp. 27,44.

[15] Email from Matthias Kind, ICRC Regional Delegation for East Asia, 27 April 2005; ICRC, “North Korea: ICRC to Support New Orthopedic Center,” 22 March 2005, www.icrc.org.

[16] Email from Bryce Fieldhouse, Country Director, HI DPRK, 9 May 2005.

[17] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1019.

[18] Email from Bryce Fieldhouse, Country Director, HI DPRK, 19 August 2004.

[19] See “ICRC in North Korea,” www.icrc.org; “North Korea Needs More Prosthetic Legs: Report,” Yonhap English News, Seoul, 25 March 2005.

[20] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1020.