North Korea broke the seal of the water purification facilities in the Kaesong Industrial Complex after South Korean staff left at the end of April, and used 1.14 million tons of water over the next 70 days, it was revealed on Thursday.
But the government here claims it "entrusted" the North with handling the facilities, in what pundits say is an attempt to contain the fallout of the report for fragile cross-border relations.
In a report submitted prior to a parliamentary audit of Korea Water Resources Corp. to lawmaker Park Ki-choon K-Water said it withdrew after stopping all water reprocessing operations on Apr. 29 in accordance with emergency protocol.
But when staff returned on July 9, they found the seal on the water reprocessing facility and chemicals broken.
The North Koreans evidently broke the seal and manually restarted the water reprocessing facility to produce 16,300 tons of water daily, supplying 15,300 tons of water to Kaesong city and 1,000 tons to the Industrial Complex.
They also broke the seal on water purifying chemicals such as coagulant and used them.
K-Water said, "The task of adding up the damage cost incurred by North Korea's unauthorized use of the facility lies with the management committee."
But given that 1 ton of industrial water in South Korea costs between W500 (US$1=W1,063) and W1,000, the cost of 1.14 million tons is estimated between W570 million and W1.14 billion.
The Unification Ministry tried to play down the report, saying in a statement, "During the halt of operations, the water supply was not severed, and the North was entrusted with the job of managing the water reprocessing facility, so this cannot be seen as an unauthorized use by the North."