South Korean Official Questions North's Motives After Flood
09 September 2009
South Korea remains dissatisfied with Pyongyang's explanation of a
deadly flood that resulted from a dam opening in North Korean
territory. Seoul's chief official on North Korean policy is beginning
to question publicly Pyongyang's motives.
|South Korean Army soldiers, rescue team members search for missing people at Imjin River in Yeoncheon, north of Seoul, 8 Sep 2009|
Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told lawmakers in Seoul Wednesday
that the government is still evaluating why North Korea unleashed a
deadly surge of floodwaters.
He says the South Korean government
views the release as intentional but that the North's "real motives are
unclear" for the time being.
North Korea opened floodgates
Sunday morning on a hydropower dam on its side of the North-South
border. Six South Koreans were killed when the water in the shared
Imjin River rose quickly to twice its usual level. Recovery workers
said Wednesday they had recovered the final three bodies, including
that of an eight-year-old boy.
In a two-sentence letter Monday,
North Korea said it had ordered the release on an "emergency" basis
because water levels behind the dam had risen too high. Pyongyang also
promised to alert the South if similar situations arise in the future.
South's Minister Hyun says he finds it particularly disturbing that
North Korea has not mentioned the loss of six South Korean lives.
He says the appropriate authorities in the North need to better explain this and make an apology.
North Korea analysts in Seoul suspect the North deliberately released
the water to cause damage in the South. South Korean authorities have
been careful to avoid explicitly labeling the release as a "water
attack." Still, Hyun's rejection of the North's explanation is a sign
the South does not rule that possibility out.
Some assert that
the placement of several North Korean dams so close to the South's
border shows that Pyongyang built them with such acts of sabotage in
Yang Moo-jin is a professor at Seoul's University of North
Korean Studies. He thinks the North intentionally flooded the South as
a means of forcing diplomacy.
Yang says the South will probably
suggest working level talks on flood control, and the North will try to
use its leverage in those talks for a more comprehensive deal to resume
economic assistance from the South.
North and South Korea remain
technically at war with each other, with only a 1953 armistice having
paused fighting between the two sides.