Unification Ministry upset by Gyeonggi flood

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Unification Ministry upset by Gyeonggi flood

South Korea’s Unification Ministry expressed “strong regret” Wednesday over North Korea’s unannounced release of water from its border-area dam two days earlier, which caused property damage to residents in areas downstream of Imjin River in Gyeonggi, and the ministry urged Pyongyang to issue prior notices in the future.

The ministry’s protest came after the North dumped water from its Hwaggang Dam, raising the inflow of the Imjin River from 97 tons of water per second at 6 p.m. to 428 tons of water per second three hours later, in violation of an agreement reached in 2009 that such releases would be accompanied by prior announcements.

“South and North Korea reached an agreement in which the North consented to issue prior notices before releasing water,” said Jeong Joon-hee, the ministry spokesman during a regular briefing Wednesday. “Therefore, we express strong regret over what happened and urge the North to show restraint.”

“In case it plans to release water, it must notify South Korean officials beforehand,” added Jeong.

Jeong, however, did not say the government saw it as an act of provocation by the North, nor did he specify how the South would respond in case the North releases water again without notification.

Officials believe the flood is the direct result of the North’s release of water from its Hwanggang Dam, located about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of the military demarcation line, as there had been no recent rainfall in the area.

Facing the sudden increase in water levels, the Gunnam Dam, built in 2010 for flood control purposes, increased the amount of water it released to 427 tons per second at 1 a.m. on Tuesday from 116 tons per second at 7 p.m. a day before. The increased level of water was a problem for fishermen who make their living along the Imjin River, as their fishing nets were damaged or lost in the flood. No one was injured in a flash flood Monday.

To prevent flood damage in downstream areas in Yeoncheon County and Paju in Gyeonggi, South Korea built the Gunnam Dam with 13 floodgates in 2010 to handle an inflow of water up to 11,300 tons of water per second.

The two Koreas struck an agreement in October 2009 mandating that the North provide notice of water releases, one month after six South Koreans were killed in a flash flood caused by the North’s release of water from the Hwanggang Dam.

After the 2009 agreement, North Korea occasionally informed authorities in the South of their planned water-release through a military line set up across the border. The military line, however, has been severed since the closure of the Kaesong industrial complex in February.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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