South and North launch joint hydrographic survey of Han and Imjin estuaries

Posted on : 2018-11-06 17:02 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
First joint survey since armistice agreement of 1953
South and North Korea commence a hydrographic survey for the joint use of the Han and Imjin River estuaries on Nov. 5. (Park Kyung-man
South and North Korea commence a hydrographic survey for the joint use of the Han and Imjin River estuaries on Nov. 5. (Park Kyung-man

South and North Korea launched a hydrographic survey for the joint use of the Han and Imjin River estuaries for the first time in the 65 years since the armistice agreement was signed in 1953.

As improvements continue in inter-Korean relations, the “peace wave” has been rippling from the border regions of Gyeonggi Province and Gangwon Province all the way to Jeju Island.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) and Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced the launch of a joint inter-Korean hydrographic survey on Nov. 5 for waterways in the Han River estuary to be jointly used in accordance with a Sept. 19 military agreement for implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration.

The waters subject to joint usage extend over a 70km stretch from the northeastern tip of the Gimpo Peninsula to the southwestern tip of Gyodong Island on the South Korean side, and from the village of Imhan in Kaesong’s Panmun County to the village of Haenam in Yonan County, South Hwanghae Province, on the North Korean side.

A joint survey team consisting of ten members each from the South and North Korean sides – including military and shipping authorities and hydrographic experts – will be divided the entire length into three survey zones through the end of the year. The survey involves the use of six South Korean vessels, with sonar equipment on board used to measure depths to the ocean floor and ensure safe depths for boat travel.

Once the survey is complete, the two sides plan to prove navigational information (charts) to ensure free travel by civilian vessels. Joint usage of the Han and Imjin River estuaries is expected to produce a number of different effects, as the waters are seen as suitable for the pursuit of multiple projects including aggregate extraction, tourism/recreation, and ecological preservation.

The two sides previously reached an agreement on joint use of the Han River estuary and the pursuit of aggregate extraction efforts at their Pyongyang summit in Oct. 2007, but it failed to come to fruition as inter-Korean relations subsequently soured.

“Although the armistice agreement permits free navigation by private South and North Korean vessels in the Han River estuary, actual free travel by private boats has been restricted by each side’s military authorities as ‘sensitive waters,’ so it has not been possible to conduct waterway measurements and other basic surveys or to systematically produce charts and other navigational information,” an MOF official explained.

The city of Gimpo, which has consistently pursued investigations of the Han River estuary ecosystem and waterways and free travel by private vessels in the past, recently decided to pursue full-scale exchange and cooperation between bordering South and North Korean regions following the launch of the inter-Korean Han River estuary survey.

“Gimpo City and North Korea’s Kaepung County, which share the estuary at Jogang Village between South and North, have decided to establish a sisterhood relationship and pursue various cooperation efforts,” explained Gimpo Mayor Jung Ha-young.

“The main effort will involve establishing a ‘unified special economic district’ spanning Jogang Village on the South and North Korean sides and building a ‘Jogang Peace Bridge’ connecting the two villages,” he explained.

 North Gyeonggi correspondent)
North Gyeonggi correspondent)
Other inter-Korean cooperation efforts in the works

That afternoon, the councils of Gangwon and Gyeonggi provinces, which border the DMZ, signed a “peace working agreement” at Dorasan Station in Paju, in which they agreed to lead the way in inter-Korean exchange and cooperation and joint development of the Demilitarized Zone at the provincial council level. With their agreement, the councils agreed to cooperate toward preventing conflict stemming from competition at the local government level to assume control of inter-Korean exchange efforts, while considering and implementing solutions to issues affecting the border region.

Jeju Island also proposed inter-Korean exchange efforts to North Korea. Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Council members Kang Cheol-nam and Moon Jong-tae announced on Nov. 5 that they had delivered a letter to the North Korean delegation containing a proposal from the council’s chairperson to promote inter-Korean exchange while they were attending a Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation solidarity and meeting event for implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration and September Pyongyang Joint Declaration at the Mt. Kumgang Hotel on Nov. 3 and 4.

Universities have joined the push as well. Kangwon National University plans to become the first South Korean higher education institution to create a “peace studies” graduate school department, with master’s and doctoral programs available from the first semester of 2019. The university described “peace studies” as a discipline viewing cooperation and peace as the key tasks demanded by 21st century civilization, with the aim of achieving a paradigm shift from “warring civilizations” to “civilizations of peace.”

By Park Kyung-man, North Gyeonggi correspondent, Lee Jeong-a, staff photographer, Park Soo-hyuk, Gangwon correspondent, and Huh Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent

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