Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 06 November 2017


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty and has not participated at all in efforts to ban antipersonnel mines.

In October 2016, North Korea stated that it “shares the humanitarian concerns associated with the use of anti-personnel mines, but due to the unique security environment of the Korean peninsula, especially regarding the United States’ insistence on the use of landmines there, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is not in a position to give up the use of landmines.”[1]

Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials have earlier stated that North Korea supports the aims and objectives of the treaty, but is not ready to accede, given its complex security situation.[2] In May 2009, a Geneva-based North Korean official stated to the ICBL that North Korea “is not interested in engaging” on the mine issue.[3]

On 5 December 2016, North Korea abstained from voting on UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 71/34 calling for universalization and full implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty, as it has in previous years.

North Korea is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, transfer, stockpiling, and use

In July 2016, further allegations of mine laying by North Korea during 2016 were published by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.[4] In August 2016 the US military, citing the United Nations Command (UNC), stated that new mine laying by North Korea was occurring, and that the UNC condemned the new mine laying as a violation of the 1953 armistice.[5] The Monitor is not in a position to verify the allegations.

Previously, in 2015, allegations of new use of antipersonnel landmines by North Korean forces surfaced. In June 2015, South Korean authorities were quoted in the press as stating that North Korea had started laying new landmines on its borders to stop its soldiers from fleeing the country.[6]

A second allegation occurred in August 2015, when two South Korean soldiers on a routine patrol on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) at Yeonchon, in Gyeonggi province, were injured by newly emplaced antipersonnel mines.

Early news reports quoting South Korean military sources stated that the mines were not of North Korean origin.[7] The type of mine was later confirmed by South Korean military to be a North Korean wooden box mine (PMD-6 type).[8]

North Korea issued a denial of use, stating it only used mines in self-defense.[9] At a press conference in New York on 21 August, the North Korean ambassador asserted that the South Korean military had identified the mine as an M-14 on 4 August and then changed it to a North Korean box mine on 10 August for political purposes.[10]

The United States (US)-led UN Command deployed a Special Investigation Team from the Military Armistice Commission to examine the area after the incident. The team included military officers of four countries and was observed by Swiss and Swedish members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. The investigation concluded “that the North Korean People’s Army violated paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 of the Armistice Agreement by emplacing wooden box land mines along a known Republic of Korea patrol route in the southern half of the Demilitarized Zone, injuring two Republic of Korea soldiers. Additionally, the investigation determined that the devices were recently emplaced, and ruled out the possibility that these were legacy landmines which had drifted from their original placements due to rain or shifting soil.”[11]

North Korea is believed to have used a substantial number of mines in or near the DMZ with South Korea.[12]

North Korea has produced antipersonnel mines in the past, but no information is available on possible current production.[13] North Korea has exported mines, which have been found in Angola and Sudan, but there are no reports of recent transfers.[14] The size of North Korea’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines is not known, but is probably substantial.

North Korean-made copies of Soviet PMD-6 mines continued to be found in 2017 on the shores of South Korean islands and along watersheds downstream from the DMZ in South Korea. Heavy rains and landslides moved the mines from their former locations causing casualties among civilians in South Korea.[15]

[1] North Korea also stated “The use of landmines by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is strictly for self-defence purposes in the grave situation on the Korean peninsula, where the United States is increasing the risk of war.” Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Explanation of Vote on Resolution L.7/Rev.1, 71st Session, UN General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee, New York, 31 October 2016, UNGA, Official Records, A/C.1/71/PV.24, pp. 25/35–26/35. North Korea has offered similar explanations of vote in recent years. See, explanation of vote on UNGA Draft Resolution L.50, Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, General Assembly, Official Records, Seventieth Session: First Committee, 24th Meeting, Tuesday, 4 November 2015, New York, A/C.1/70/PV.24 and also Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Explanation of Vote on Resolution L.5, 69th Session, UNGA First Committee, New York, 3 November 2014, UNGA, Official Records, A/C.1/69/PV.23, pp. 16/23–17/23.

[2] Email from Kerry Brinkert, Director, Implementation Support Unit, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), 1 February 2006. In 1998, a government representative indicated that it 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. Statement by Counselor Kim Sam Jong, Permanent Mission of North Korea to the UN, 4 December 1998; and “Official Records of the UN General Assembly, Fifty-third Session, 79th plenary meeting” (New York: UNGA, 4 December 1998), A/53/pv79, pp. 8–9.

[3] Telephone interview with official at the Permanent Mission of North Korea to the UN in Geneva, 27 May 2009.

[5]N. Korea reportedly laying land mines near landmark bridge,” Stars and Stripes, 26 August 2016.

[8] This particular mine has been found frequently in South Korea and on its coastal islands. In 2010, a South Korean man was killed by the same type of mine in the neighboring county in Gyeonggi province. See, Landmine Monitor Report 2011.

[9]North Korea Rejects Landmine Blasts Blame,” Sky News, 14 August 2015.

[10] Statement of North Korea’s Ambassador, UN Press Conference, 21 August 2015.

[12] Kim Ki-ho, Director, Korean Research Institute for Mine Clearance, estimated two million mines set at two-meter intervals on the northern side of the DMZ. “South Korea’s Uphill Battle Against Land Mines,” Voice of America (Seoul Bureau), 9 March 2010.

[13] North Korea has produced Model 15 fragmentation mines and APP M-57 blast mines. See, Eddie Banks, Brassey’s Essential Guide to Anti-Personnel Landmines (London: Brassey’s, 1997), p. 164; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 2004–2005 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2005), p. 211.

[14] Colin King, ed., Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance 2004–2005 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2005), p. 211.

[15]  “N. Korean wooden-box land mine found on border islet,” Yonhap News Agency, 28 July 2017.