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Gov’t Demands NK Apology for Water Discharge

Posted September. 09, 2009 08:24,   


The Unification Ministry in Seoul yesterday demanded an apology from North Korea over the six South Koreans killed or missing after the North’s sudden discharge of water from a dam in the Imjin River.

Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a statement, “We demand that North Korean authorities give an adequate explanation and make a sincere apology for the casualties due to the North’s unannounced discharge of water.”

This was Seoul’s first request for an apology from Pyongyang since the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak administration, going beyond expressing regret.

Chun hit North Korea for its explanation Monday that it made an emergency discharge from the Onje (Dam) north of the Imjin River, saying, “The North effectively admitted to its water discharge without warning, but its statement is insufficient at best for us to accept, and stopped short of commenting on the casualties.”

On what Seoul will do in the event of no apology, Chun declined to elaborate, simply saying, “It is inappropriate to predict.”

President Lee Myung-bak released his thoughts on the incident, saying, “I feel so sad for the death of six innocent people. I’ve ordered officials to thoroughly inspect this incident to get to the bottom of it.”

After making this and other statements at a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in the morning, the president told related ministries, “The government must prepare measures to ensure that such an incident never occurs again.”

A presidential office source said, “The water level at the dam seems to have risen due to a heavy downpour around the Hwanggang Dam in the North Aug. 26-27,” but added, “The casualties are a result of the North’s negligence in informing the South of its water discharge in advance.”

On if the discharge was a flood attack, President Lee’s top aide for diplomacy and security Kim Sung-hwan told a news briefing yesterday, “We need further analysis to figure out the North’s intent,” adding, “We are open to all possibilities.”

“The fundamental issues in this case are the North’s release of water and the failure of an automatic warning system at the river to operate,” he said in stressing that the presidential office inevitably faces limits in its capacity to react to the situation.

“We are improving the national crisis response manual and checking what to do when things like this occur around the North Korean border,” Kim added. “From now, we’ll also add a system for setting off an alarm to the existing warning system after confirmation even with the naked eye.”

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