North Korea Plants Land Mines on Roads to South; Kim’s Move Seen As Ratcheting Up Tension

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The truce village of Panmunjom is seen on the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea in April 2018.

SEOUL — North Korea has installed mines on all three roads between the two Koreas since around December last year, South Korean military sources said Monday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who declared that his nation had severed ties with South Korea, is believed to be aiming to heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula with the latest move.

All three roads are routes symbolizing dialogue or cooperation between the two Koreas. The westernmost road is the one leading to the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea near the demilitarized zone separating the North and the South, where South Korean companies operated until 2016. The easternmost road was used by people who visited scenic Mt. Kumgang in North Korea by bus and other means.

According to the sources, North Korean soldiers and others installed mines on the roads on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone. South Korean military troops stationed near the zone also confirmed that roadside lights also were removed there.

Among the three roads, the central one is a short-distance, unpaved road passing through a plateau, connecting North Korea with Cheolwon, Gangwon Province, in northern South Korea. It was built under a 2018 North-South military agreement with the aim of jointly exhuming the remains of soldiers and others who died in Korean War (1950-1953).

The agreement was signed during the administration of former South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was on the political left and took a soft line toward Pyongyang. It provided for a cessation of all hostilities between the two Koreas. But Pyongyang essentially declared its abrogation of the agreement in November last year.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kim Jong Un, who also is general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said that South Korea is the “primary foe,” abandoning peaceful unification with the South at the end of the last year.

The number of buried mines and where they were buried are unclear, but it will surely take a considerable amount of time to remove the mines and restore the roads, even if dialogue and exchanges are resumed between the two countries.

Before burying the mines, North Korea restored a monitoring station, which had been removed from the demilitarized zone, in November last year. South Korea is on high alert, believing that the North is increasing its pressure on the South in stages.