Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 26 June 2018

Summary: Non-signatory North Korea has not commented on its position on accession to the convention. It was absent from the vote on a key United Nations (UN) resolution on the convention in December 2017. North Korea produces and stockpiles cluster munitions but is not known to have used or exported them.

Policy

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

North Korea did not participate in the Oslo Process that created the convention and has never attended a meeting on cluster munitions or made a public statement on the issue.

In December 2017, North Korea was absent from the vote on a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution, which urges states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[1] It was also absent from the vote on the previous UNGA resolutions promoting implementation of the convention in 2015 and 2016.[2]

North Korea is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

North Korea is not known to have used or exported cluster munitions.

Jane’s Information Group lists North Korea as producing and stockpiling submunition warheads for 122mm, 170mm, and 240mm rockets. Jane’s Information Group also cites the North Korean Air Force as possessing KMGU dispensers (which deploy submunitions), RBK-500 cluster bombs, and unspecified types of anti-armor and anti-runway cluster bombs.[3]



[1]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 72/54, 4 December 2017.

[2]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 71/45, 5 December 2016; and “Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.

[3] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 841; and Terry J. Gander and Charles Q. Cutshaw, eds., Jane’s Ammunition Handbook 2001–2002 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2001).


Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 06 November 2017

Policy

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.


Mine Action

Last updated: 19 November 2018

 

Treaty status

Mine Ban Treaty

Not a party

Mine action management

National mine action management actors

Not reported

Mine action strategic plan

None

Extent of contamination as of end 2017

Landmines

Not known

Cluster munition remnants

None

Land release in 2017

Landmines

None reported

Progress

Landmines

Clearance was reported in October 2018 for the first time in many years, as a result of a military agreement between North and South Korea to remove all mines in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Panmunjon in order to excavate the remains of soldiers

 

Contamination

The precise extent of the mine problem in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is not known. North Korea admitted in 1998 that it had laid mines in the DMZ between the north and south of the peninsula. The affected areas are reported to be marked and fenced.[1] In early 2006, officials commented to the Mine Ban Treaty Implementation Support Unit (ISU) that North Korea had not laid mines elsewhere in the country,[2] despite fears that, among others, sections of the east coast were also mined.

In 2016, as in the previous year, there were reports of new use of mines by North Korea, in areas both on its side of the DMZ, and in those patrolled by South Korea.

(See the South Korea’s profile for further details.)

 

Program Management

North Korea has no functioning mine action program.

 

Land Release

No release of mined area is believed to have taken place in 2017, as in earlier years.

In April 2018, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, met and issued a statement promising to bring “lasting peace” to the peninsula with a commitment to denuclearization and to ending hostilities, turning the DMZ into a peace zone.[3]  In June 2018, President Moon called for an inter-Korean operation to excavate the remains of soldiers in the DMZ killed in the 1950–1953 Korean War.[4] In September 2018, the North Korean and South Korean ministers of defense signed a military agreement, the Panmunjom Declaration, which mandates that North Korea, South Korea, and the United Nations Command (UNC) “will remove all mines in the Joint Security Area (of the DMZ) in Panmunjom within 20 days, beginning on October 1, 2018.”[5] South Korean officials confirmed on 22 October 2018 that clearance of the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom by North and South Korea had been completed.[6] North Korea were reported to have cleared five mines while South Korea found none.[7] Mine clearance also took place from 1 October to 30 November 2018 in Cheolwon, Gangwon province, to enable joint recovery of the bodily remains of soldiers, and enable the establishment of an inter-Korean road within the joint recovery site.[8]

 

 

 

The Monitor acknowledges the contributions of the Mine Action Review (www.mineactionreview.org), which has conducted the primary mine action research in 2018 and shared all its country-level landmine reports (from “Clearing the Mines 2018”) and country-level cluster munition reports (from “Clearing Cluster Munition Remnants 2018”) with the Monitor. The Monitor is responsible for the findings presented online and in its print publications.



[1] Statement of North Korea, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), New York, UN doc. A/53/pv79, 4 December 1998, pp. 8–9.

[2] Email from Kerry Brinkert, Director, Mine Ban Treaty Implementation Support Unit, 1 February 2006.

[4]S. Korea's first mine-clearing tank wins battle suit,” Aju Business Daily, 9 July 2018.

[6]Koreas finish removing land mines from border village,” Associated Press, 22 October 2018.

[7] “Two Koreas Complete Mine Removal in JSA,” KBS World Radio, 19 October 2018.

[8] Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain, Song Young- moo and No Kwang Chol, 19 September 2018, Annex 3, p. 9.


Casualties

Last updated: 21 October 2018

 

Casualties

All known casualties (between 1999 and 2017)

1 mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties: 1 injured 

 

As in previous years, it is not known if new mine or ERW casualties occurred in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Since 1999, the Monitor recorded one mine incident in December 2002: a North Korean soldier involved in construction work in the demilitarized zone lost a foot in a landmine explosion.[1] It is likely that other incidents went unreported.

 



[1] ICBL, Landmine Monitor Report 2004: Toward a Mine-Free World (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2004).


Casualties and Victim Assistance

Last updated: 26 December 2016

Casualties

As in previous years, it is not known if new mine or explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties occurred in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in 2015.

Since 1999, the Monitor recorded one mine incident in December 2002: a North Korean soldier involved in construction work in the demilitarized zone lost a foot in a landmine explosion.[1] It is likely that other incidents went unreported.

Victim Assistance

North Korea has no victim assistance coordination. The Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled coordinates disability issues, including advising on state policies relating to disability, developing regulations for special education and vocational training, and managing physical rehabilitation centers.[2]

The ICRC’s Beijing office provided prostheses for five mine/ERW survivors from China and North Korea in 2015. It was not reported how many beneficiaries there were from each country.[3] In 2015, the ICRC continued to provide materials and training to the Rakrang Physical Rehabilitation Center in Pyongyang. The center carried out 102 amputations and stump revision procedures for military and civilian amputees in 2015, but did not report if any of the amputees were mine/ERW survivors.[4] It also worked with the Ministry of Health to improve orthopedic surgery, physiotherapy and other services in four hospitals. In mid-2015, support for the provincial hospital in Sariwon was discontinued, while support for the other three hospitals continued. At the end of the year, talks about supporting a second rehabilitation center were underway.[5] Handicap International (HI) also continued efforts to improve physical rehabilitation services by improving facilities, providing supplies, and training staff at several hospitals and rehabilitation centers. In 2015, HI provided support to the Korean Federation for the Protection of the Disabled.[6]

The law mandates equal access for persons with disabilities to public services. However, implementing regulations for the law had not been passed and persons with disabilities still face discrimination and lack of care due to a limited number of facilities and trained doctors. Persons with disabilities experienced discrimination in many aspects of life.[7]

North Korea signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 3 July 2013.



[1] ICBL, Landmine Monitor Report 2004: Toward a Mine-Free World (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2004).

[2] ICRC Physical Rehabilitation Programme (PRP), “Annual Report 2013,” Geneva, May 2014; and United States (US) Department of State, “2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Washington, DC, 13 April 2016.

[3] ICRC, “Annual Report 2015,” Geneva, 2016, p. 380.

[4] Ibid., p. 379.

[5] ICRC, “Annual Report 2014,” Geneva, 2016, p. 379.

[6] HI, “Corée du Nord,” undated.

[7] US Department of State, “2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Washington, DC, 13 April 2016.