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North Korea Notifies the South of Border Dam Releases

SEOUL, South Korea

North Korea on July 15 informed South Korean authorities that it planned to release water from its border dams following recent heavy rains.

Seoul's unification ministry, which handles communications with the north, said Pyongyang used official communication channels. It is notified agencies within the country that deal with flooding, which have been facing their own problems with heavy rainfall.

The heavy rainfall across the Korean Peninsula is coming from Typhoon Soulik, which made landfall on July 12 over Taiwan and then moved over China on the 13, causing flooding in both countries.

It moved northeastward over North and South Korea this week. However, the rains expected there, while still enough to cause concern of flooding, will not be as extensive as the rains in Taiwan and China.

The release will come from North Korea’s Imnam Dam on the Han River just north of the Demilitarized Zone. It is thought to hold as much as 2.6 billion tons of water.

The unification ministry did not provide any information on how much water would be released or what possible effect this could have on the country.

"This is the third time that the North has given the South advance notice," the Global Post quoted a ministry official as saying. The previous notifications came in 2002 and 2004, he added.

And as OOSKAnews reported, in July 2010 North Korean authorities notified South Korea of water discharge plans due to possible dangerous flooding.

However, at other times Pyongyang has released large quantities of water from border dams without any prior notification, heightening tensions between the two neighbors. 

In September 2009, North Korea released 40 million tons of water into the Imjin River in South Korean territory from its Hwanggam Dam without any prior warning; six South Korean campers were killed in the subsequent flooding.

After that incident officials in Seoul warned their counterparts in Pyongyang to provide advance notification of all dam releases.