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Table of Contents
Country Reports
North Korea, Landmine Monitor Report 2008

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Mine Ban Policy

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)—North Korea—has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. In February 2006, Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials stated that North Korea supports the aims and objectives of the treaty, but is not ready to accede, given its complex security situation.[1]

North Korea has never attended an international or regional meeting on the landmine issue, and has been absent from every vote on the annual UN General Assembly resolution supporting the Mine Ban Treaty until 2007, when it abstained from voting on Resolution 62/41 on 5 December 2007. North Korea is not party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons. It did not attend the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions in May 2008.

North Korea produced antipersonnel mines in the past, but no information is available on possible current production.[2] North Korean mines have been found in Angola and Sudan, but there are no reports of recent transfers.[3] The size of North Korea’s stockpile of antipersonnel mines is not known, but it is probably substantial.

Landmine/ERW Problem

North Korea admitted in 1998 that it had laid landmines in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the North and the South of the peninsula. The affected areas are reported to be marked and fenced.[4] In early 2006, officials commented to the Mine Ban Treaty Implementation Support Unit that North Korea had not laid mines elsewhere in the country,[5] despite fears noted in Landmine Monitor in 2004 that sections of the east or west coast were also mined.[6] In December 2006, a North Korean defector claimed that in 1981, when he was stationed in Ryongyon-kun, South Hwanghae province, on the west coast just above the 38th parallel, he had observed mined areas along the shore that were fenced and marked with warning signs.[7]

There are also believed to be explosive remnants of war (ERW), particularly unexploded ordnance, in North Korea left from the conflict on the Korean peninsula in the 1950s.[8]

Demining

There were no reports of demining in North Korea in 2007 or 2008 through May. In September 2002, however, following an agreement between the North and the South,[9] North Korean army personnel carried out mine clearance in support of the reopening of a railway line between the two Koreas.[10] On 17 May 2007, two passenger trains crossed the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea for the first time in more than 50 years.[11]

Landmine/ERW Casualties

As in previous years, it is not known if landmine/ERW casualties occurred in North Korea in 2007 or 2008 through 1 June.[12] The last known mine incident occurred in 2002.[13] There is no evidence of any efforts being made to collect information about mine/ERW casualties.

Victim Assistance

While North Korea reportedly has a comprehensive system to assist persons with disabilities,[14] the World Association of Milal and a disabled North Korean defector said there was “an almost total lack of rehabilitation facilities or social services for them [persons with disabilities].”[15] The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly expressed its concern about discrimination against children with disabilities and insufficient efforts to ensure their access to health and social services, or education. It has been reported that civilian disabled are put under house arrest or sent out of Pyongyang and other cities into internal exile in rural areas without services. Disabled veterans are treated well.[16] In 2007, the government of North Korea announced its intention to do more for persons with disabilities,[17] but the impact of this repositioning was not yet visible as of June 2008.

North Korea has a national policy of providing comprehensive, free medical care to all citizens.[18] However, the health system has a limited capacity to respond to needs, a problem that has been exacerbated by UN sanctions imposed in October 2006.[19] Torrential rains and flooding in 2007 caused further damage to the “already fragile health system,” destroying health facilities in flood-affected areas.[20] The Ministry of Public Health oversees all medical facilities and develops national health policy.[21] The government lacked the technical and financial capacity to deliver appropriate physical rehabilitation care and was dependent on international organizations to deliver these services. Accurate statistics about the number of people needing physical rehabilitation are not available.[22]

On 18 June 2003, the government adopted the Law of Disability Protection ensuring equal access for persons with disabilities to public services, but implementing legislation had not been passed as of 2007. According to the United States Department of State, “Traditional social norms condone discrimination against people with disabilities.”[23] As of 31 July 2008, North Korea had not signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or its Optional Protocol.

In 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continued to support the Songrim and Rakrang Physical Rehabilitation Centers by providing raw materials, equipment and components. The ICRC also supported the initiation of a new outreach program at the Songrim Center to visit past patients. The centers increased their deliveries of orthopedic appliances, including to landmine survivors. In 2007, Songrim and Rakrang centers provided 1,020 prostheses (1.3% for mine survivors), 14 orthoses (one of which was for a survivor), 60 wheelchairs, and 747 pairs of crutches to more than 1,100 people. Since 2003, of the 3,600 prostheses fitted at these two centers; 155 were for mine survivors. In addition, the ICRC has continued to support the training of five North Koreans at the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics in Phnom Penh, and provided scholarships to five others to begin training at the same school.[24]

In 2007, Health Unit 7 of the European Union Programme Support continued to support the Hamhung Physical Rehabilitation Center and Hamhung Orthopedic Hospital on the east coast, and the Suung Lake Rehabilitation Center and Wonsan Deaf School. All were previously supported by Handicap International. Patients included mine/ERW survivors who had been injured in the past, but no new mine/ERW survivors were assisted in 2007.[25]


[1] Email from Kerry Brinkert, Director, Implementation Support Unit, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), 1 February 2006. The North Korean government has not made any public statements on the landmine issue since 1998, when a representative indicated that the government 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 DPRK to the UN, New York, 4 December 1998; and Official Records of the UN General Assembly, Fifty-Third session, 79th plenary meeting (A/53/pv79), pp. 8–9.

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

[3] Jane’s Mines and Mine Clearance, 2004–2005, Jane’s Information Group, p. 211.

[4] See Landmine Monitor Report 2006, p. 955.

[5] Email from Kerry Brinkert, GICHD, 1 February 2006.

[6] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1018.

[7] The Landmine Monitor researcher for the Korean peninsula interviewed a North Korean defector, Seung-Min Kim, in New York on 7 December 2006. Seung-Min Kim claimed that he was a former captain in the North Korean Army.

[8] See Landmine Monitor Report 2005, p. 771.

[9] See, for example, “Koreas reach landmark mine deal,” BBC News Online, 15 September 2002, news.bbc.co.uk.

[10] “Koreas begin demining border,” BBC News Online, 19 September 2002, news.bbc.co.uk. See also, for example, K. Wolfe, “Koreas Open DMZ at Last: Construction Begins on The ‘Iron Silk Road’,” Schiller Institute, September 2002, www.schillerinstitute.org.

[11] “Korean trains in historic link-up,” BBC News Online, 17 May 2007, news.bbc.co.uk.

[12] Telephone interview with Vincent Slypen, Director of Operations, HI, 16 June 2008.

[13] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 1019.

[14] See Landmine Monitor Report 2007, p. 865.

[15] Lee Aeran, Sung Woo Park, Naeri Kim, Changyoon Lee, Sookyung Lee, and Myeong Hwa Jang, “Disabled in North Korea Confined to Homes, Expelled From Capital,” Radio Free Asia (Seoul), 13 June 2007, www.rfa.org.

[16] US Department of State, “2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Washington, DC, 11 March 2008; and Lee Aeran, Sung Woo Park, Naeri Kim, Changyoon Lee, Sookyung Lee, and Myeong Hwa Jang, “Disabled in North Korea Confined to Homes, Expelled From Capital,” Radio Free Asia (Seoul), 13 June 2007, www.rfa.org.

[17] Email from Thierry Meyrat, Head of Regional Delegation for East Asia, ICRC, 20 June 2008.

[18] World Health Organization (WHO), “Country Cooperation Strategy-DPRK (2004–2008),” June 2003, p. 5.

[19] WHO, “Health action in crises,” www.who.int.

[20] IFRC, “Report 2006–2007: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Appeal No. MAA54001,” Geneva, 3 April 2008, p. 6.

[21] WHO, “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea National Health System Profile,” 2007, pp. 7, 10, www.searo.who.int.

[22] ICRC, “Physical Rehabilitation Programme: Annual Report 2007,” Geneva, May 2008, p. 35.

[23] WHO, “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea National Health System Profile,” 2007, p. 17, www.searo.who.int; and US Department of State, “2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” Washington, DC, 11 March 2008.

[24] ICRC, “Physical Rehabilitation Programme: Annual Report 2007,” Geneva, May 2008, p. 35.

[25] Telephone interview with Vincent Slypen, HI, 16 June 2008.