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South Korea president expresses regret over North's dam decision

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C) meets with evacuated residents at a shelter in a village in Paju, South Korea, on Thursday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (C) meets with evacuated residents at a shelter in a village in Paju, South Korea, on Thursday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Aug. 6 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said North Korea's decision to open the floodgates of a border dam without notifying Seoul was an "unfortunate" decision, as the country copes with more than a month of heavy downpours and flooding in many areas.

Moon, who made an impromptu visit to the Gunnam Dam in the South, situated on the Imjin River, met with evacuees taking shelter in the border town of Paju as the dam began to exceed warning levels, News 1 and SBS reported Thursday.

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The South Korean leader said an inter-Korea agreement on communicating dam discharge was not being properly implemented and that the North was not fulfilling its part of the accord.

"If North Korea alerted us in advance about the discharge from the Hwanggang Dam, it would help greatly with [South Korea's] management of the Gunnam Dam," Moon said. "But unfortunately that is not the situation right now, is it?"

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Moon made the remarks during a conversation with Kwon Jae-wook, regional manager of the Korea Water Resources Corp.

In the absence of North Korea cooperation, the South is monitoring potential disasters through a 24-hour hotline that coordinates teams in the military, police and fire departments, according to reports.

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Kwon told Moon on Thursday the South is capable of responding to floods if the North decides again to discharge water from its Hwanggang Dam without notice.

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"It can be forecast in advance," Kwon said.

During Moon's meeting with evacuees sheltering at an elementary school in Paju, he said the flooding was the "responsibility of the government," Newsis reported.

Moon, who is Roman Catholic, also asked an evacuee with rosary beads to pray for the country and for him, the report says.

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Heavy rains are expected to pound South Korea until late August, according to the latest weather forecasts.

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