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South Korean Official Questions North's Motives After Flood



South Korea remains dissatisfied with Pyongyang's explanation of a deadly flood that resulted from a dam opening in North Korean territory. Seoul's chief official on North Korean policy is beginning to question publicly Pyongyang's motives.

South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek told lawmakers in Seoul Wednesday that the government is still evaluating why North Korea unleashed a deadly surge of floodwaters.

He says the South Korean government views the release as intentional but that the North's "real motives are unclear" for the time being.

North Korea opened floodgates Sunday morning on a hydropower dam on its side of the North-South border. Six South Koreans were killed when the water in the shared Imjin River rose quickly to twice its usual level. Recovery workers said Wednesday they had recovered the final three bodies, including that of an eight-year-old boy.

In a two-sentence letter Monday, North Korea said it had ordered the release on an "emergency" basis because water levels behind the dam had risen too high. Pyongyang also promised to alert the South if similar situations arise in the future.

The South's Minister Hyun says he finds it particularly disturbing that North Korea has not mentioned the loss of six South Korean lives.

He says the appropriate authorities in the North need to better explain this and make an apology.

Some North Korea analysts in Seoul suspect the North deliberately released the water to cause damage in the South. South Korean authorities have been careful to avoid explicitly labeling the release as a "water attack." Still, Hyun's rejection of the North's explanation is a sign the South does not rule that possibility out.

Some assert that the placement of several North Korean dams so close to the South's border shows that Pyongyang built them with such acts of sabotage in mind.

Yang Moo-jin is a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies. He thinks the North intentionally flooded the South as a means of forcing diplomacy.

Yang says the South will probably suggest working level talks on flood control, and the North will try to use its leverage in those talks for a more comprehensive deal to resume economic assistance from the South.

North and South Korea remain technically at war with each other, with only a 1953 armistice having paused fighting between the two sides.

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