Was N.Korea's Dam Release a Shot Across the Bow?

      September 08, 2009 11:20

      North Korean defectors say the Stalinist country's National Defense Commission could be behind the decision to release a huge amount of water from a dam on the Hwang River early Sunday morning. Six South Koreans died in flash floods caused by the unannounced release on the southern side of the border.

      One defector, a former official in the North Korean Cabinet, on Monday said, "North Korean dams close to the military demarcation line belong to the Ministry of Electrical Industry, but as they are linked to military tactics to release dam water as a weapon that could threaten South Korea, massive releases of water from dams are decided by the commission."

      That implies that dams near the border were built to play a dual role of supplying water to factories or for irrigation and of flooding South Korea in wartime.

      A photo of what appears to be the Hwang River Dam in North Korea. /Google-Yonhap

      A former senior North Korean official said, "There is the likelihood that by releasing water from the Hwang River Dam, North Korea showed one of several ways in which it could threaten South Korea." He suggested that the release of water from the dam was probably a long-premeditated provocation.

      "North Korea built dams including the Mt. Kumgang Dam to inundate Seoul," he said, but the project was foiled by South Korea building the Peace Dam. "But North Korea believes it can decisively threaten Seoul if it opens the floodgates at times of heavy rainfall," he added.

      A defector who took part in the construction of the Hwang River Dam said, "The dam is so well-built and sturdy that there is almost no danger of collapse because the central government took charge of construction. The water stored in the dam is mainly used for irrigation for the Hwanghae provincial region or for industrial use in the Kaesong district. It is against common sense to drain away all the water at once when there had not been much rain."

      The Hwang River Dam, which went into use in 2002, is 40 m high and 900 m long. A hydroelectric power plant built on the dam generates 50,000 to 100,000 kw of electricity per year.

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