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[Opinion] Landmines

Posted November. 12, 2002 23:05,   


Landmines are one of the most inhuman weapons devised by the mankind. They kill people indiscreetly - enemies, allies, soldiers, civilians, adults and children. Some of them are even designed to lure people’s attention. Some send people up in the air as high as 2m and explode, decimating everyone within a 10m distance. There is the so-called `ankle landmine`, a horrible device skillfully designed to cut ankles of people so that enemies get preoccupied with transporting and treating victims. Plastic mines are undetectable with conventional metal detectors and never get rusty. They stay and drift away when rain comes down, threatening lives in another place.

▷ The efforts to eliminate the inhumane human devices have been underway across the world. Late princess Diana drew the world’s attention by proactively participating in an anti-landmine movement, and the International Campaign for Ban on Landmines (ICBL), an organization leading the movement, won Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. According to `2002 Landmine Watch’ report recently released by the organization, there was a significant improvement in production and usage of landmines throughout the world last year. Still, about 80 million to 120 million landmines are estimated to be buried in 70 countries, and some 6,000 new ones are being added to the total everyday.

▷ It takes more money to remove landmines than to bury them. Some $300 to $1,000 is spent removing a single landmine, which is traded at $15 to $30 in the international market. Given the risk of the task, in particular, a number of ingenuous ideas have been developed. A research institute in the U.S. is currently testing a new method – they attach the back of a bee with a location-tracing chip and a special device detecting the existence of explosive elements in the air. When the bee is exposed to the explosive elements, a landmine detection system using special bacteria and a robot dog, which are currently under development, will be dispatched. These ongoing efforts tell how difficult to remove landmines.

▷ Korean Peninsula is also one of the heavily landmined areas in the world, with some 2 million estimated to be buried under ground. Civilian casualties are reported often after heavy rain. And it was recently reported that the military provided a large tract of land to civilians with landmines buried under the ground as well. We feel sorry for those farmers who have to work in the fear of mine explosion. Still, we feel also sympathetic towards the military that assumes responsibilities to protect people from the threat of landmines. It is said that soldiers near the border almost complete the work of removing landmines for the construction of inter-Korean railway. And we are now dreaming of a day that landmines in the demilitarized zone will be all gone.

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com