the Minister of Unification
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said Wednesday that he believes that North Korea intentionally released water from Hwanggang Dam, which lead to the deaths and disappearances of South Korean campers.
Pro-Park Coalition Lawmaker Song Young-sun asked Hyun several questions about whether the release of water was an accident or intentional during an emergency report to the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee. When asked later what he meant by an “intentional release of water,” Hyun said the government is still considering the intention behind the water release. His response revealed that the government has not concluded that the incident was a form of “water attack.”
Hyun also said North Korea admitted that the water release occurred without prior notice, and some are interpreting this to mean that the act was not an accident or mistake. When asked by Grand National Party (GNP) Lawmaker Chin Young whether North Korea had opened the flood gates intentionally while aware that it could cause a flood disaster if the water were released all at once, Hyun responded by suggesting Chin’s accusation might be a bit much.
Regarding this matter, a unification ministry official clarified that North Korea explained in its notice to South Korea that it had released the water, and Hyun was saying the act of releasing the water itself was intentional. The official suggested Hyun was not talking about whether North Korea had launched a “water attack.”
Meanwhile, several others in Wednesday’s National Assembly committee meeting pointed out that North Korea bore the primary responsibility for the incident. The ineffectiveness of South Korea’s national emergency response system, which did not properly respond to North Korea’s water release, was also criticized. The need for an inter-Korean agreement to block a repeat of the incident was also voiced.
GNP Lawmaker Gu Sang-chan called the incident a man-made disaster caused by both North Korea’s inhuman, anti-Korean, criminal action and South Korea’s administrative chaos. Fellow GNP Lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun said the incident went beyond an act of terrorism, and that North Korea’s attitude was insolent and vicious.
Democratic Party Lawmaker Moon Hak-jin said North Korea needed to apologize and take measures to prevent a recurrence, but that a major cause of the incident was insufficient communication between North Korea and South Korea. Moon also made reference to an Imjin River flood prevention agreement reached with North Korea during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations, and attributed the tragedy to the current administration that has not yet discussed a plan to realize the agreement with North Korea.
Hyun said the ministry had proposed on-the-ground investigations to North Korea in order to prevent floods, but these did not happen due to North Korea’s negative attitude. It was an idea that would continue to be brought up during future inter-Korean talks, too, he said.
Some lawmakers are also calling for the reinforcement of “response dams” in preparation for unannounced releases of water by North Korea. GNP Lawmaker Kwon Young-se said North Korea’s Hwanggang Dam can hold 300 million to 400 million tons of water, but South Korea’s Gunnam Dam could handle only 70 million tons of water. Fellow GNP Lawmaker Hwang Jin-ha said the government must build the Hantangang Dam in preparation for water release from North Korea’s Hwanggang Dam and take into consideration whether the Gunnam Dam can handle a North Korean “water attack” as reason to raise the dam’s height.
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