September 02, 2019 11:43
A nominally South Korean island near the coast of North Korea houses a North Korean military installation, it was only recently discovered.
Hambak Island in the West Sea, which is part of Ganghwa Island and under the official jurisdiction of Incheon, was found in June to be occupied by North Korea. Official registers and various online maps show it situates below the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border.
As questions grew, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told lawmakers, "Hambak Island is clearly north of the NLL but incorrectly listed in South Korean registers."
Locals on nearby islands say Hambak belongs to South Korea, but the Defense Ministry says it has belonged to North Korea since the armistice ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.
"We are reviewing related laws to see if we can exclude Hambak Island from our registered islands," a Ministry official said.
Others say the government needs to take issue with a military installation existing on Hambak Island even if it turns out to belong to North Korea. TV Chosun reported Friday that a North Korean flag flies high on Hambak Island, while multiple structures were spotted there that appear to be multiple-launch rocket systems and coastal artillery batteries.
Ha Tae-kyung, a lawmaker with the Bareun Mirae Party said, "The coastal artillery batteries on Hambak Island violate the September 19 [inter-Korean] military agreement." He added, "The Defense Ministry must demand their immediate removal."
A military spokesman said the North recently built what appear to be some observation posts on the islet.
The NLL runs startlingly close to the North Korean coast and is disputed by Pyongyang.
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