[MINORITY]The Horror of Landmines

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[MINORITY]The Horror of Landmines

This year's summer was extraordinarily hot and long. Without fail, downpours hit the northern Kyonggi province this summer and arms, which were stored in military compounds near the Civilian Control Line, were swept away by the flood and flew into the Hantan River. We will never know where, for instance, the small and light plastic anti-personnel mine M14, known as a "toe popper," were flown to and are waiting for possible victims. Although TV broadcasters aired scenes of thousands of soldiers searching for the mines along the river with mine detectors, the footage was nothing more than a show. With just slight knowledge of landmines, people know that the detectors could not find plastic mines. The little devils only make their appearances when someone becomes a victim.

On Aug.14, Mun Jeong-hwan, 30, who was working with an excavator on the banks of the Hantan River in Cheolwon-gun, fainted after an anti-tank mine exploded. Although he barely lived after surgeons removed bomb splinters from him, he is still afraid to leave his house. In October 2000, the explosion of anti-tank mines caused another accident, but the government took no action. On Aug.12, an anti-personnel mine exploded near the Eodo beach in Hwaseong, Kyonggi province, smashing an ankle of a man who was enjoying his vacation with his family. The man was looking for his shoes that he took off before swimming when the accident occurred. Last fall, there were three explosions of lost mines on Seokmo Island, in Kanghwa. Twenty people, Including seven civilians, were either killed or seriously injured in the blasts.

This is a deploring reality. Who uses and manages the evils - landmines - which brutally bring down young men who have to work and take care of their families? Is there really no way to remove the landmines, which draw innocent civilians, living in a peaceful era into a war?

Surprisingly, the Korean government said that anti-personnel mines were used under strict supervision inside the DMZ. At the anti-landmine conference at Oslo in September 1997, Korean officials said there had been no civilian victims in Korea .

According to a survey of the Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines, there are 41 minefields in 36 regions in the country and there have been at least 2,000 civilian victims since the Korean War. The government should recognize the civilian damages and suffering caused by landmines as soon as possible and come up with measures to prevent the reoccurrence of similar accidents. It also needs to step up to help victims.

The writer is a professor of Anyang University and the Coordinator of the Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines.

by Cho Chae-kook

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