Land mine-removal program marks 10 years
SEOUL — The South Korean military recently marked the 10th anniversary of a land mine-removal operation that has seen 67,000 of the explosives dug up from rural areas six miles south and farther from the Demilitarized Zone.
“We’re removing the land mines as part of an effort to protect people’s lives and support development of the local economy and facilities — that’s it,” said a spokesman for the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity.
Development has accelerated in recent years from Seoul toward northernmost South Korea, so much so that environmentalists fear a building boom of sorts in the DMZ should the Koreas ever reunify.
The spokesman said removal of the mines is not part of any effort to clear the way for reunification of the peninsula, nor an indication of improving relations with North Korea.
Within South Korea’s half of the DMZ are an estimated 1 million or more anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, one of the most obvious signs that the two Koreas are still technically at war. Korean War hostilities ceased in 1953 with an armistice, but no peace treaty was ever signed.
The spokesman pointed out that the South Korean military has never removed land mines inside the DMZ and in its adjacent areas immediately to the south.
“There is no reason at all to remove the land mines from that area,” he said.
About 3,300 South Korean soldiers participated in the removal of land mines south of the area last year.
United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission officials declined to comment on the removal program, saying it is strictly a South Korean military operation, according to a spokesman.