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Box Mines Discovered Near DPRK-ROK Border

One of the North Korean wooden box land mines that may have been washed into South Korea by heavy flooding in the North. (Yonhap)

A 45-year old South Korean man was killed Saturday (31 July) and his 25-year old companion was injured when a wooden box land mine they found while fishing exploded.  The box land mines were part of a cache of about 36 discovered by ROK authorities near the Imjin River, at the DPRK-ROK border.  Box land mines were also discovered by local citizens on nearby islands.  It is currently believed that the mines made their way south due to heavy rains inundating Kaesong and its surrounding areas in the DPRK.

JoongAng Ilbo reports:

Two local residents, a 48-year-old man named Han and his 25-year-old nephew Kim, were returning home from fishing near the Imjin River when they picked up two wooden boxes from a field of reeds at the river. The box Han was carrying exploded, killing him immediately, while Kim, who was five or six meters (16-20 feet) behind, suffered injuries to the face and the arms. Kim was transferred to the hospital and is in stable condition.

Earlier in the day, a resident of Jumun Island in Ganghwa, Incheon, found a similar mine and reported it to the military.

The military and police searched the area and found 16 other wooden boxes on the coast of nearby islands. Eight contained mines. After the fatal accident near the Imjin, the military discovered 19 other box mines in the area. Another one was found in the lower reaches of the Han River.

“The land mines discovered at the Imjin River didn’t have safety pins, so they appear to have been buried and deployed,” said the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a statement. “But the mines found on the island near Ganghwa had safety pins, so it is presumed they came from some kind of storage facility.”

The box mines were 20-centimeters wide, 9-centimeters long and 4-centimeters tall. They are designed to explode when the box’s cover is opened or a certain amount of pressure is put on it.

The military said it is widening its search along rivers and streams linked to North Korea, including the Han River.

South Korean soldiers yesterday search for mines in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi. (Yonhap)

Korea Times reports on previous interactions in the neighborhood:

Soldiers and police said Saturday that they have retrieved 33 wooden boxes containing mines since the launch of a joint search Friday along the streams connected to the Imjin River, running through the country’s heavily fortified border with the communist North.

An official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the landmines appear to have washed up on the riverside after drifting down from the North.

“We assume that the wooden-boxed landmines buried or in reserve on the North Korean side have drifted southward amid heavy downpours,” the official said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Heavy rain has hit the northern part of the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks, swelling water levels. The North has discharged water from dams north of the river flowing into South Korea.

Last September six South Korean campers died when North Korea suddenly discharged dam water and created a flash flood.

Some observers say a thorough investigation should be carried out into the incident as the North might have intentionally discharged the mines in retaliation to the South Korea’s recent joint military exercise with the United States.

Tensions have been high along the border since the South accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships on March 26, killing 46 of the South Korean sailors onboard in the West Sea.

A North Korean wooden-boxed land mine found near Ganghwa Island. (Yonhap)

Korea Herald reports:

They picked up two boxed mines on their way back from fishing in the Imjin River near the inter-Korean border, police said. Only one of the mines exploded as the detonation cap of the other was not separated.

Police and military investigators were inspecting the exact cause of the accident and how they gained entrance to the area which is off limits to civilians after sunset.

With the Army search for the mines ongoing during the weekend, a total of 36 wooden-boxed land mines had been found as of Sunday evening along the streams that connect with North Korea, military officials said.

The mines are made to explode when their lid is opened. With the safety pin removed, pressure of just 1 kilogram can detonate the explosive, military officials explained.

On Saturday, the Army restricted access to the border area and issued warnings to locals and vacationers to take extra caution.

The South Korean Army sent a message through a cross-border military hotline Sunday, urging the North to prevent the recurrence of similar accidents, the Defense Ministry said.

In this video image from Pyongyang‟s state-run Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, a North Korean military chopper rescues workers trapped by a flash flood in Sinhung, South Hamgyong Province. (KCBS/Yonhap)

Much of the DPRK is experiencing torrential rain and flooding.  Kaesong and its surrounding areas have experienced the worst rain and flooding in 50 years.  KCBS reported 324 mm of rain were measured between 12 and 19 July.   Some of the box mines discovered were believed to have been displaced by rain and flooding, and made their way near the Imjin River where they were discovered.  Rains became so torrential in the DPRK, that KCNA reported Kim Jong Il’s managing disaster relief and dispatched KPA helicopters to effected areas.  Images of helicopters rescuing the stranded in South Hamgyong were also broadcast last week on Korean Central TV.

A village in Sinhung in North Korea's South Hamkyong Province is submerged due to the torrential rains that hit North Korea in recent days. (KCBS/Yonhap)

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This article was written on 01 Aug 2010, and is filled under DPRK Disaster Relief, DPRK External Relations, Inter-Korean Relations, North Korean press, other topics, population control, social control.

An affiliate of 38 North