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Table of Contents
Country Reports
Republic Of Korea, Landmine Monitor Report 2004

Republic Of Korea

Key developments since May 2003: In 2003, the ROK Army removed 13,000 antipersonnel mines from the periphery of military sites in the rear areas of the DMZ, completing clearance of 17 sites. In May 2003, it completed demining operations inside the eastern sector of the DMZ.

Key developments since 1999: In April 1999, the ROK began clearance around military bases in the rear area of the DMZ and had completed clearance at 17 sites by the end of 2003. In 2002 and 2003, the ROK conducted mine clearance inside and below the DMZ for the first time as part of two inter-Korean transportation projects to link railways and roads. The ROK has stated that it has not produced antipersonnel mines of any type since 2000, and that it has enforced an indefinite extension of its 1997 moratorium on the export of antipersonnel mines. The ROK revealed that it has a stockpile of about 2 million antipersonnel mines. Between 1999 and 2002, at least 46 new mine casualties were recorded. The ROK has contributed a total of $1 million to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund.

Mine Ban Policy

The Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) has not acceded to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. It considers antipersonnel mines a military necessity so long as the military threat from North Korea persists.[1] The ROK government told Landmine Monitor in March 2000 that it:

‘could consider joining the Ottawa Convention if the security situation on the Korean Peninsula improved substantially, or if suitable alternatives to antipersonnel landmines became available.... The ROK government agrees, in principle and from the humanitarian point of view, with the movement to ban completely the use of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). However, the ROK cannot fully subscribe to the total ban on APLs.... [I]n a country under a constant threat of war like Korea, the landmine issue is not a matter of humanitarianism, but that of survival. Therefore, we cannot regard APLs issue the same way as other countries do.”[2]

The ROK attended Ottawa Process meetings as an observer. During the Oslo treaty negotiations, both the ROK and United States insisted on the use of antipersonnel mines on the Korea peninsula as an essential element in deterring a possible aggression. The US formally proposed an exception in the treaty for mine use in Korea, which was rejected by other governments participating.

The Korea exception has been reiterated in the new US landmine policy announced 27 February 2004. Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, said, “Any use of persistent anti-vehicle landmines outside Korea between now and the end of 2010 will require Presidential authorization. The use of persistent anti-personnel landmines during this period would only be authorized in fulfillment of our treaty obligations to the Republic of Korea.”[3] The ROK government made no official comment on the US policy announcement.

South Korea has abstained from voting on every pro-mine ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996, including Resolution 58/53 on 8 December 2003. At the 58th session of the UN General Assembly meeting, a South Korean delegate stated, “The Republic of Korea is committed to the global effort to protect civilians from the scourge of landmines.”[4]

The ROK did not participate in the Fifth Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty held in Thailand in September 2003. While it regularly attended the treaty’s intersessional Standing Committee meetings in the past, in the last two years it only took part in one session, in February 2004.

The ROK is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) and ratified its Amended Protocol II on landmines on 9 May 2001. In October 2003, the ROK submitted its annual Article 13 report required under Amended Protocol II. It participated in the Fifth Annual Conference of the States Parties to Amended Protocol II to the CCW, on 26 November 2003. It also attended all meetings of the CCW Group of Governmental Experts working on Explosive Remnants of War and antivehicle mines since 2002.

The Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines (KCBL) has continued to raise public awareness on the landmine issues with a focus on the Korean situation. In November 2003, the KCBL submitted a draft of the Special Act for Compensation of Mine Victims and Mine Clearance in Korea to the National Congress. The KCBL also participated in a hearing for the Special Act at the National Congress on 7 July 2003. In support of the Special Act, the KCBL promoted a cartoon exhibition at the subway station of Seoul City Hall on 15-19 September 2003. The KCBL also held a photographic exhibition of work by landmine survivors in December 2003.

Production, Transfer, and Stockpiling

The ROK government reported to Landmine Monitor that it did not produce any antipersonnel mines in 2003.[5] In the past the ROK produced two Claymore-type directional fragmentation antipersonnel mines: KM18A1 and K440.[6] The Ministry of National Defense has indicated that no antipersonnel mines of any type have been produced after 2000.[7]

The ROK is not known to have exported antipersonnel mines in the past. The government stated in November 2003 that it has “faithfully enforced an indefinite extension of its moratorium on the export of anti-personnel landmines since 1997.”[8] The ROK confirmed that the moratorium does not include Claymore-type mines.[9] In 2001, the ROK offered to sell K440 Claymore-type mines to New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore.[10]

The ROK has a stockpile of about 2 million antipersonnel mines.[11] The stockpile includes 960,000 M14 mines that were modified before July 1999 to meet the detectability requirements of CCW Amended Protocol II.[12] The ROK also holds an unknown number of self-destructing mines, including US-supplied ADAM artillery-delivered, scatterable mines. The government has budgeted funds to acquire landmine scattering systems from 2000-2007.[13] The Research Center of National Defense has continued to research alternatives to antipersonnel mines.[14]

The US military is stockpiling about 1.1 million M14 and M16 non-self-destructing antipersonnel mines in South Korea, to be used in any future resumption of war in Korea. Landmine Monitor Report 2002 cited official US Army documentation indicating that the US stored nearly half of the 1,138,600 non-self-destructing mines designated for use in Korea in the continental United States, not in the ROK.[15] However, the ROK government in February 2003 told Landmine Monitor that the entire US stockpile of non-self-destructing mines is in South Korea.[16] South Korea confirmed that the US also holds 40,000 air-delivered GATOR mines, 10,000 VOCANO mines, and unknown number of infantry-delivered Modular Pack Mine System (MOPMS) mines.[17]

Use and Landmine Problem

During the Korean War, the US Army and ROK Army heavily mined the area along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Additional landmines were planted in the 1960s, 1978, and 1988 in the DMZ and the three-to-six mile wide Civilian Control Zone (CCZ), immediately below the southern boundary of the DMZ. Landmines have also been planted in “rear areas,” away from the DMZ, mostly around military bases located throughout the country.

In April 2004, the ROK told Landmine Monitor that 91 million square meters of land are mined.[18] In September 2003, the Ministry of National Defense provided a document to the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee indicating a total of 34.1 pyong (112.5 million square meters) of mined land, including 27.5 million pyong (90.7 million square meters) of unconfirmed mined areas and 6.6 million pyong (21.8 million square meters) of confirmed mined areas.[19] In October 2000, the Ministry of National Defense gave a much larger figure, stating that 1,368 million square meters of land are mined in the DMZ and CCZ.[20]

The number of mines laid is officially estimated at 1.1 to 1.2 million, making the DMZ and CCZ one of the most heavily mined areas in the world.[21] In September 2003, the Ministry of National Defense told the National Assembly the total in identified areas is estimated at 1,083,000 mines.[22]

Since 1959, the military has allowed civilians to enter certain areas in the CCZ to farm land and establish new villages. Some 200 civilians reside in one model village near Panmunjom inside the DMZ. Another 8,000 civilians reside in about 210 villages in the CCZ.[23] ROK and US soldiers patrolling inside the DMZ or engaged in field exercises in the CCZ, as well as South Korean civilians residing in the CCZ continue to be killed or injured. In addition, the ROK government reports that there are still 22 military sites that are mined in the rear areas below Seoul.[24] (See below for information on planned clearance of these rear area sites).

Each year, torrential rains sweep antipersonnel mines out of minefields. The Armed Forces detected and cleared 31 landmines swept away by floods during 2003.[25] In 2001, it was publicly disclosed that more than 1,000 landmines have been lost since 1998, after being washed out of the minefields or military bases by heavy rains.[26] In 2003, a KCBL campaigner found 374 antipersonnel mines on the bank of the Han River close to Seoul.[27]

Mine Clearance, Mine Risk Education, Mine Action Funding

In the ROK, mine clearance operations are conducted mainly by the military. About 51,200 soldiers were deployed for mine clearance operations in 2003 and removed 13,000 M14 antipersonnel mines from the periphery of military sites in the rear areas.[28] The ROK has cleared a total of 17 rear area sites.[29] It plans to clear 11 sites in 2004,[30] and to finish clearance of all 39 rear area sites by 2006.[31] Clearance in rear areas began in April 1999.

In May 2003, the ROK Army completed demining operations inside the eastern sector of the DMZ to permit the reconnection of the cross-border Donghae highway and railway line; clearance in the western sector for the Gyeongui line was completed in December 2002.[32] The ROK stated, “We finished without any casualties, developing one of the most effective demining methods on the Korean Peninsula.”[33] These unprecedented clearance operations in the DMZ began in 2002, as part of two inter-Korean transportation projects to link railways and roads. The project included clearance of 850,000 square meters of land south of the DMZ and 251,6000 square meters in the DMZ.[34]

The Korea Mine Action Group (KMAG), established in 2002, is the only commercial landmine clearance company in South Korea. In 2003, KMAG cleared areas near the DMZ including areas around army camps, no longer in use contracted by the Korean Army and some unconfirmed minefields contracted by the Local Government.[35] KMAG also received a request from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to participate in the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance in Baghdad and the northern region of Iraq.[36]

In compliance with CCW Amended Protocol II, ROK Armed Forces updated 8,000 signs for minefields in 2003 and 12,443 signs in 2002, and constructed wire entanglements with a total length of about 80 kilometers around bases in 2003 and 116 kilometers in 2002.[37]

There have been limited mine risk education activities in South Korea. The ROK states that it provides mine risk education to the civilians living in the Civilian Control Zone via television, radio, and pamphlets.[38] However, according to a survey in the rear areas made by the KCBL, the residents of 36 mine-affected districts have not received any mine risk education from the military or the local government.[39] The KCBL provided mine risk education in primary schools near the DMZ in 2001 and reached 1,100 school children.[40] In 2004 the Chungaram Media Publishing Company published “Not Mines, But Flowers,” a Korean translation of a Japanese MRE book for children.

The ROK spent about US$2.3 million to purchase mine clearance equipment and explosives in 2003.[41] In addition, in 2003 the ROK government contributed US$50,000 to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance, earmarking the full amount for Laos.[42] The ROK has contributed a total of $1 million to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund and $60,000 to the Slovenia International Trust Fund. Recipient countries have included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Laos, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan.[43]

Landmine Casualties

According to the Korean Campaign to Ban Landmines, in 2003, landmines caused at least five new casualties in the ROK, including two people killed and three injured.[44] One mine casualty was officially reported by the government in 2003.[45] Between 1999 and 2002, at least 41 new mine casualties were recorded: 17 in 2002 (two killed and 15 injured); four in 2001; 19 in 2000; one in 1999. There is no comprehensive official data on mine casualties. Casualties continue to be reported in 2004, with one man injured in a mine incident in January.

According to one source, between 1990 and 2000, landmines killed at least 155 people, including 75 civilians.[46] The number of people injured is likely to be much higher. The KCBL estimates that more than 1,000 civilians and 2,000 to 3,000 military personnel have been killed or injured since the war.[47]

In May 2001, a US soldier was injured after stepping on an M14 antipersonnel mine while patrolling the DMZ.[48] Landmines reportedly caused seven U.S. military casualties in ROK between 1990 and 2001.[49]

Survivor Assistance

Civilian casualties of landmines can file for government compensation through the State Compensation Act. Medical bills are covered by the National Medical Insurance system. Soldiers injured while on duty receive a veteran’s pension and free medical services from the Veterans Hospital.[50] Depending on the degree of their injuries, the government also provides preferential treatment for military mine survivors, including tax cuts and employment benefits for their children. In 2002, two landmine survivors won lawsuits for compensation against the State.[51] One compensation claim was filed in 2003.[52]

While civilian landmine casualties are eligible for compensation, it seems very few survivors are actually receiving any government benefits. The KCBL claims that the national compensation law has several limitations, including that a suit to claim compensation must be lodged within three years of the mine incident. In November 2003, the KCBL submitted a draft “Special Act for Compensation of Mine Victims and Mine Clearance in Korea” to the National Congress. The draft Special Act includes provision for compensation without the current limitations for mine survivors and families of those killed. The Special Act was not tabled in the plenary session of the National Congress and KCBL will re-submit a revised draft to the new National Congress in 2004. The KCBL established the Association of Mine Victims in September 2003.

In September 2003, a coalition of civil society and environmental groups demanded that the US military compensate Korean mine casualties and clear the landmines it laid in South Korea.[53]


[1] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 474-475; Landmine Monitor Report 2000, pp. 498-499 and Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 620.
[2] Response from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations in New York, 21 March 2000. It should be noted that many military experts and retired officers, including a former commander of joint U.S.-ROK forces, have publicly stated that antipersonnel mines can be removed without jeopardizing the defense of the ROK. (See Landmine Monitor Report 1999 for more detail).
[3] Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, On-The-Record Briefing, Washington, DC, released 27 February 2004.
[4] Statement by Counselor Lew Kwang-chul, 58th Session, UN General Assembly, 5 November 2003, p. 5.
[5] Response from Kim Sam-hoon, Permanent Representative, ROK Mission to the UN, 20 February 2004.
[6] For details on past production of mines, see Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 680-681. There has been conflicting information about possible production of a copy of the US M-16A1 antipersonnel mine.
[7] Response from Lt. Col. Su-yong Song, Deputy Manager of Armaments Control Department, Ministry of National Defense, Seoul, 14 May 2002; Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Director, International Arms Control Division, Arms Control Office, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003; Response from ROK Mission to the UN, New York, 26 February 2003.
[8] Statement by Amb. Eui-yong Chung, Permanent Representative of the ROK to the UN, Fifth Annual Conference of the States Parties to Amended Protocol II of the CCW, Geneva, 26 November 2003, p.2.
[9] Response to Landmine Monitor (John Kim) from ROK Mission to the UN, New York, 15 April 2004.
[10] The sales efforts were abandoned. See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, pp. 453-454.
[11] Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003.
[12] Response from Lt. Col. Su-yong Song, Ministry of National Defense, 14 May 2002.
[13] People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Press Release on Ministry of National Defense budget for 2000-2007, submitted to the National Congress, 7 July 2004. According to this source, the government allocated Won 18,400,000,000 (US$15 million) in 2003 and Won 24,300,000,000 (US$20 million) in 2004 to import landmine scattering machines for M74 antipersonnel mines, M75 antivehicle mines and M79 antivehicle mines for training; and the Ministry of National Defense has budgeted a total of Won 185,800,000,000 (US$156 million) for acquiring scattering machines during the period from 2000 to 2007. Exchange rate: US$1=Won1,192 used throughout. US Federal Reserve, “List of Exchange Rates (annual),” 5 January 2004.
[14] Interview with Lt. Col. Song-chan An, International Defense Policy Bureau, Seoul, 14 September 2004.
[15] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, pp. 681-682; Landmine Monitor Report 1999, p. 333.
[16] Response of the ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[17] Response from Kim Sam-hoon, ROK Mission to the UN, New York, 20 February 2004.
[18] Ibid.
[19] “Minefields 23 Times Size of Yoid,” Korea Times, 24 September 2003. The ROK Army defines unconfirmed minefields as areas that are suspected to be mined, but for which there are not maps and other types of information. Such areas have signs saying “Unconfirmed Minefield Danger.” These “unconfirmed minefields” are in the restricted areas above Seoul. The Defense Ministry document notes 65 unconfirmed mined areas near the border.
[20] Response to Lawmaker Sung-ho Kim, National Congress, by Ministry of National Defense, Seoul, 10 October 2000.
[21] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 682, for various US and ROK estimates and details on types of mines. Some sources have estimated 2 million mines in the DMZ and another 1 million in the CCZ.
[22] “Minefields 23 Times Size of Yoid,” Korea Times, 24 September 2003.
[23] Response from ROK Mission to UN, 15 April 2004.
[24] Ibid.
[25] CCW Amended Protocol II Article 13 Report, Form B, 20 October 2003.
[26] “1,000 Land Mines Unaccounted For,” Korea Times, 17 September 2001.
[27] Hankyoreh (daily newspaper), 25 November 2003.
[28] Response from ROK Mission to UN, 15 April 2004. The ROK indicated that 11,000 landmines were cleared from the periphery of twelve military camps and air force bases in the rear areas in Article 13 Report, Form B, 20 October 2003 (reporting period from October 2002 to October 2003).
[29] Interview with Lt. Col. Song-chan An, International Defense Policy Bureau, Seoul, 26 April 2004. In 2002 the ROK military removed 6,019 landmines from around seven military camps and air force bases in rear areas. Article 13 Report, Form B, October 2002. Col. Kim said 9,000 M14 mines were cleared from seven minefields in 2002. Response from Col. Gi-ok Kim, Ministry of National Defense, 13 May 2003. For 2001, the ROK reported removing about 4,700 mines from seven rear area sites. It has also reported clearing about 6,200 mines from April 1999-June 2000 and about 5,900 mines from June 2000 to February 2001.
[30] Response from Kim Sam-hoon, ROK Mission to the UN, 20 February 2004.
[31] Interview with Lt. Col. Song-chan An, 26 April 2004; CCW Article 13 Report, Form B, 20 October 2003.
[32] CCW Article 13 Report, Form B, 20 October 2003.
[33] CCW Article 13 Report, Form G, 20 October 2003. The report provides details on demining methods and technologies used.
[34] For more details see Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 623, and Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 683. The two Koreas simultaneously commenced mine clearance in accordance with an agreement initially reached in July 2000, as well as a subsequent military security agreement on 17 September 2002 governing the demining operations.
[35] Interview with Whan Im, President, KMAG, Pajoo, 23 April 2004.
[36] “South Korean Firm to Remove Landmines, Unexploded Shells in Iraq,” Asia Pulse, 10 February 2004. Apparently, as of September 2004, discussions on deployment to Iraq were still underway. Email from KCBL, 14 September 2004.
[37] CCW Article 13 Report, Form D, 20 October 2003; CCW Article 13 Report, Form D, October 2002.
[38] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, 26 February 2003.
[39] KCBL, “Report on minefields of rear area in Korea,” 26 July 2001, p. 16.
[40] KCBL, “Annual Report for General Assembly,” November 2002.
[41] Response from Kim Sam-hoon, ROK Mission to the UN, 20 February 2004.
[42] Response from ROK Mission to UN, 15 April 2004.
[43] Dollar amounts and the list of recipients are drawn from information in previous editions of Landmine Monitor Report, which indicate the ROK provided $375,000 to the UNVTF prior to 1999, then $55,000 in 1999, $300,000 in 2000, $120,000 in 2001, $100,000 in 2002, and $50,000 in 2003. It provided $30,000 to the ITF in both 2000 and 2001.
[44] Unless otherwise noted, all information in this section comes from the KCBL. The KCBL collects information on landmine incidents from various sources. For details see previous editions of Landmine Monitor Report. See www.kcbl.or.kr.
[45] Response from Kim Sam-hoon, ROK Mission to the UN, 20 February 2004.
[46] “Land Mine Kill 155 People in S. Korea Since 1990,” Xinhua (Seoul), 6 November 2000.
[47] See Landmine Monitor Report 1999, pp. 480-482.
[48] Interview by Landmine Monitor (HRW) with soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington DC, 6 July 2001.
[49] US General Accounting Office, “U.S. Use of Land Mines,” September 2002, p. 20.
[50] Response from ROK Mission to the UN, New York, 26 February 2003.
[51] See Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 549, and Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 624.
[52] Response from ROK Mission to UN, 15 April 2004.
[53] “Minefields 23 Times Size of Yoido,” Korea Times, 24 September 2003.