64 years af­ter Korean War, North still digs up bombs

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In the 10 years he has been dig­ging up ord­nance from the Korean War, Maj Jong Il Hyon has lost five col­leagues to ex­plo­sions. He car­ries a lighter one gave him be­fore he died. He also bears a scar on his left cheek from a bomb dis­posal mis­sion gone wrong. Sixty-four years af­ter it ended, the war is still giv­ing up thou­sands of bombs, mor­tars and pieces of live am­mu­ni­tion. Vir­tu­ally all of it is Amer­i­can, but Jong noted that more than a dozen other coun­tries fought on the US side, and ev­ery now and then their bombs will turn up as well.

“The ex­perts say it will take 100 years to clean up all of the un­ex­ploded ord­nance, but I think it will take much longer,” Jong said in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press at a con­struc­tion site on the out­skirts of Hamhung, North Korea’s sec­ond-largest city, where work­ers un­earthed a rusted but still po­ten­tially deadly mor­tar round in Fe­bru­ary. Last Oc­to­ber, 370 more were found in a nearby ele­men­tary school play­ground.

Ac­cord­ing to Jong, his bomb squad is one of nine in North Korea, one for each prov­ince. His unit alone han­dled 2,900 left­over ex­plo­sives - in­clud­ing bombs, mor­tars and live ar­tillery shells - last year. He said this year they have al­ready dis­posed of about 1,200. For­tu­nately, there have been only a few in­juries in the past few years. But Jong said an 11-year-old boy who found a bomb in May lost sev­eral fin­gers when it went off while he was play­ing with it.

Ex­plo­sive legacy

North Korea is just one of many coun­tries still deal­ing with the ex­plo­sive legacy of ma­jor wars. In Asia alone, Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia, Laos and even Ja­pan have huge amounts of un­ex­ploded ord­nance left to clean up. The three-year Korean War, which ended in what was sup­posed to be a tem­po­rary armistice on July 27, 1953, was one of the most bru­tal ever fought.

Vir­tu­ally all of the 22 ma­jor ci­ties in North Korea were se­verely dam­aged and hun­dreds of thou­sands of civil­ians killed by US sat­u­ra­tion bomb­ing. The ton­nage of bombs dropped on the North was about the same as the to­tal dropped by the US against Ja­pan dur­ing World War II. North Korea is prob­a­bly sec­ond only to Cam­bo­dia as the most heav­ily bombed coun­try in his­tory.

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