Confidence-Building Through Mine Action on the Korean Peninsula

Confidence-Building Through Mine Action on the Korean Peninsula

Confidence-Building Through Mine Action on the Korean Peninsula

By Dr Guy Rhodes, Executive-in-Residence, Global Fellowship Initiative, GCSP

The Korean Peninsula is divided by a strip of land, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which represents the de facto border between North Korea, and South Korea. Contrary to its name, the DMZ is the most militarized zone on earth, and it delineates a stand-off between militaries composed of several million professional and reservist soldiers on both sides. It is the “Cold War’s last divide and one of the most symbolic barriers between two nations. It is also heavily mined with both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines, and contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO) from extensive ground battles and heavy aerial bombardment.



This article explores the nature and extent of explosive ordnance contamination and the physical environment within the DMZ. It describes coordinated demining operations that have taken place between military forces of North and South Korea and the beginning of a human remains recovery program that has seen the repatriation of several hundred sets of remains almost 70 years since the end of the Korean War. Joint demining operations are currently suspended and the political situation remains complex, but mines do not go away. The opportunity that mine action offers to contribute to confidence building on the Korean Peninsula is without parallel; such potential is explored here. In this context a vision for the architecture of mine action on the peninsula is suggested. This includes thoughts on further developing the legal and institutional frameworks for the sector and the potential role that the international community may offer in contributing to peace dividends, both by its presence, and its experience gained elsewhere in the world that may have application in Korea.


This article was first published here.

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Dr Guy Rhodes is a global specialist in humanitarian demining: on methods, good practices, norms, standards and capacity development at institutional, strategic, managerial and operational levels. Since 1993 he has been promoting human security initiatives with military and civilian authorities in peace operations and within humanitarian and development settings in over 40 countries. Dr Rhodes has worked for International Organizations, NGOs, as a consultant to the UN, and advisor to donor governments and affected States. Most recently he was the Chief Technical Advisor and Director of Operations at the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD). Prior to this he spent 16 years in Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. In the 1990s he supported UN Peace Missions in Mozambique and Angola with demining services. In 2000, he designed and implemented a nationwide landmine survey in conjunction with the Thai military along its borders with Cambodia, Laos PDR, Myanmar and Malaysia. Between 2001-2004 he oversaw the transfer of archive U.S. bombing records to the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, the establishment of a database of Explosive Remnants of War and the design of a national UXO survey in Vietnam. Then in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami and prior to moving to Geneva, Dr Rhodes established the Solidar INGO Consortium in Sri Lanka composed of 45 NGOs from 18 European countries to implement a joint emergency relief and social and economic rehabilitation programme.

Dr Rhodes is particularly interested in contexts where mine action can contribute to broader human security and peace agendas. He is Founder and Director of i2P Solutions where i2P abbreviates Inroads to Peace.