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North Korea Says Deadly Dam Water Release in South Was Unintentional


South Korea sent a message of protest to North Korea following a deadly surge of water caused by the apparent release from a dam on a river in the North's territory. North Korea says the release was unintentional, but not everyone believes that.

North Korea said Monday its release of floodwaters across the South Korean border a day earlier was unintentional, and promised to provide warning to the South if anything similar happens in the future.

Water in the South Korean portion of the Imjin River surged Sunday more than 4.5 meters, about twice its usual level. Three South Korean campers, including a child, have been confirmed dead. Three other people are missing and presumed to have been killed.

The surge came from a sudden release by a hydropower dam further up the river in the North's territory. South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung says Seoul sent a message of protest to the North.

He says the message expressed the South's regrets, and "strongly pressed" the North to provide advance alert of similar incidents in the future.

Some remain skeptical of Pyongyang's assertion the flood was an accident. Baek Seung-joo, a North Korea researcher with the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, says he thinks the release was meant to blackmail the South.

He says the North used what he calls a "water bomb" to warn the South that if Seoul does not step up economic assistance, the North can harm the South whenever it wants.

Baek points out that Pyongyang has released water into the South without warning before, despite promises to provide notice.

Cho Bong-hyun is a North Korea researcher at the Industrial Bank of Korea. He is among scholars who think North Korea did not release the water intentionally.

He says the North had nothing practical to gain from doing this. He says the South needs to focus any talks on preventing a repeat of such an incident. If, instead, the South dissects the North's motives, it will - in his words - "drop a bomb" on inter-Korean relations.

South Korea says it is accelerating a project to build its own dams near the North Korean border to prevent surprise floods like this in the future.


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