In the midst of heavy monsoon rainfall and as South Korea deals with floods, North Korea (DPRK) has, for the second time this year, opened the floodgates of dam on the Imjin River causing an increased water flow downstream and a risk of flooding. A South Korean government official said: “North Korea appears to continue opening and closing the floodgates at Hwanggang Dam following heavy rain. There was no notice from North Korea to the South regarding releasing water from that dam.”
Both countries signed an agreement in October 2009 in which the DPRK committed to provided warning ahead of opening floodgates, however, and despite South Korea’s appeals back in June, this has not been done. South Korea’s Yeoncheon County which, in 2009, saw six people die after the DPRK opened these floodgates without notice, issued a warning for people to be particularly vigilant of river levels.
This year’s monsoon is exceptionally intense, creating challenging conditions for both countries, and it is likely that the DPRK opened these floodgates 42km north of the border to mitigate inundation of their lands and protect key infrastructure such as power supplies. As the downpour continues, in Seoul, eight people have died due to flash floods caused by the heavy rains. South Korean authorities are monitoring the situation but state there is yet no reason for alarm.
In a statement to the Daily NK, a South Korean newspaper which focuses on North Korean issues, a DPRK official said: “It’s natural to open the dam gates when it rains a lot, so I don’t understand why we must inform the South Korean government.” He continued: “The South is more modern than us, so they know whether or not we’ve opened the gates even if we don’t notify them. So isn’t there a political intention behind asking for prior notification?”