The Hwanggang Dam incident (2009)

UPDATE 3 (2009-9-17): South Korea rules out “water attack”.  According to AFP:

South Korea’s new defence chief said Thursday there was no evidence that the sudden discharge of water from a North Korean dam which killed six southerners was a deliberate attack.

“We have no solid information to say the discharge was for a water attack,” Kim Tae-Young, appointed defence minister on September 3, said in a report to parliament.

He said the dam’s floodgates were opened after it was full of water.

The report tallies with accounts by the North, which said a sudden surge in the dam’s water level prompted an “emergency” release. Seoul officials had previously questioned the explanation of the incident which has strained cross-border relations.

In a related development Thursday, North Korea accepted a protest letter sent by South Korea’s parliament speaker Kim Hyong-O to his northern counterpart, Choe Thae-Bok, calling for a “sincere” apology from its neighbour and a full explanation.

He also suggested that Pyongyang should allow South Korean lawmakers to visit the site for an investigation. There was no immediate response from the communist country.

UPDATE 2 (2009-9-12): North Korean soldiers scouted the Imjin area before the water release.  According to the AFP:

North Korean soldiers scouted the inter-Korean border a day before the North released millions of tonnes of water from a dam, killing six South Koreans, news reports said on Saturday.

Military officials have told legislators that about 10 North Korean soldiers left their observation post and came south close to the military demarcation line dividing the two countries, Yonhap news agency said.

“They reconnoitred the area for about two hours before they returned to the North,” a lawmaker told Yonhap.

UPDATE 1 (2009-9-10): According to Yonhap, South Korean  Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said the incident appears to have been deliberate, although it was still not clear whether it was a “water attack.”  South Korea said Thursday that it will soon decide whether to take legal action against North Korea for its unleashing of water from the dam.

ORIGINAL POST (2009-9-8): Several innocent North and South Koreans were tragically drowned this week along the banks of the Imjin River when the DPRK released approximately 40 million tons of water from its Hwanggang Dam.

According to Yonhap:

The Hwanggang Dam, some 40km north of the border, was reportedly completed in 2007 and can hold up to 400 million tons of water. More than 340mm of rain fell on the region in late August, according to the North’s state television.

The victims were about 25km south of the border when the floodwaters came.

South Korea’s alert system was also faulted. The military detected rising water levels but failed to notify the local government, leaving the campers unattended. Flood alert equipment along the riverside also failed to operate.

The Koreas have no formal accord on controlling the floodgates. Seoul has asked for pre-notification at inter-Korean talks in recent years but the two sides have not been able to settle on technical procedures.

There have been no consultations on the matter since the conservative Lee Myung-bak government came to power in Seoul last year.

If Yonhap and the BBC are correct, this is the Hwanggang Dam’s location (Google Maps). The satellite imagery is old.  More interestingly, there is another dam on the Imjin River just above the DMZ.  It is here. This adds an interesting wrinkle to the story. This means that either the second dam down river from the Hwanggang Dam was either overrun or it was also opened.

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2 Responses to “The Hwanggang Dam incident (2009)”

  1. chris green Says:

    No, they call it the Imjin River. But in Tosan-gun, not far from the dam, is Hwanggang village. I’ve eyeballed it on the map on my office wall, but not online.

  2. eunsung Says:

    By official North Korean orthography, the Imjin river is the “Rimjin” or “Limjin” river (림진강). Note that this is a spelling difference, not an entirely different name.

    Perhaps Hwanggang is a tributary?