A river surge threatens to pour cold water over the already tense relations between North and South Korea. South Korea protested to its northern neighbor, and demanded an official explanation and apology after the North’s sudden release of water on Imjin River swept away six South Koreans camping on the river’s banks on Sunday, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The deadly accident chilled the diplomatic relations between the two countries just as North Korea had started to warm up towards its southern neighbor after a year of political wrangling. The incident also added to the decades of suspicion that has built up between the two rivals that have yet to sign an official peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.
“The government demands a full explanation and an apology by a responsible member of the North’s government about the unannounced release of water that resulted in human casualty,” Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in an official government statement.
North Korea said late on Monday that it had released the water to ease the rising water levels on its side of the river, adding that it will notify the South in future cases.
The Imjin River, which starts in the North and ends in the South, is one of the major waterways on the Korean Peninsula. Although the North has built a series of dams along the river, it has so far been reluctant to cooperate with its southern neighbor in taking flood control and warning measures. According to Reuters, Pyongyang had previously failed to notify the South when it released water.
Although South Korea has feared for years that the North might use flood waters as a weapon, Seoul stopped short of describing the latest incident as an attack.
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.