Korean Peninsula Reaches Last Minute Accord To Avoid War

On August 10th, two South Korean soldiers were injured after encountering a landmine. South Korea immediately claimed that the incident was caused by North Korean agents, and was a provocation. In response, the South began broadcasting propaganda broadcasts over loudspeakers in to the north. This in turn caused the North to shoot the loudspeaker, using a .50 caliber sniper rifle. And so the continuing escalation began.

But, was it the North Koreans? South Korea claimed that this was the first landmine incident in 48 years. However, a quick scanning of news archives finds that these kinds of incidents have not only happened, but that they are routine. Over 1000 such incidents have occurred over that period, mainly to farmers who live along the DMZ. Estimates are that the DMZ zone has over 1.2 million landmines, left over from the Korean War. Worldwide, over 15,000 people are injured by landmines every year.

South Korea claimed that the north attacked their loudspeakers using an Anti-Aircraft artillery piece. However, the caliber and that it was a single shot does not fit this claim. Instead, it more fits the PTRS-41, a common sniper rifle which has been in service for the north for decades. This is not the first time the south has made outrageous claims on the North’s use of anti-aircraft artillery. Earlier this year, they claimed that these guns were used to execute a military commander, only to then have that commander show up alive in Moscow.

The use of loudspeakers for such propaganda broadcasts was prohibited by the 2004 accord. South Korea’s reintroduction of them is a clear violation of the agreement. South Korea’s claims that the north planted landmines cannot be substantiated, due to the history of incidents along the DMZ. Since then, both sides have used shelling, hitting targets on their own sides of the border, in an act of bluster. But both militaries were called up, and began preparations to renew hostilities.

Thankfully for all involved, an accord has been reached to stop the buildup and bring the peninsula back from the bring of war. In the agreement, North Korea is issuing a statement that it regrets that South Korean soldiers were injured by a landmine. In return, South Korea will again terminate the broadcasting of propaganda in to the north.

Had an agreement not been reached, it is highly likely the escalation would have resulted in at least a limited military exchange. That would have likely drawn in both the United States and China in short order. That the situation was resolved without bloodshed is good for all involved. Perhaps instead of accusations, both nations should focus on cleaning up landmines, so as to avoid a similar incident in the future.

The level of animosity and tension between the two halves of Korea remains high. Ultimately, they remain a single people, divided by external forces created from cold war tension. Reunification will happen, and the nature of which will be decided not by the United States, China or Russia, but by the Korean people themselves.

Cover Photo of Korean DMZ Border, CC by Henrik Ishihara