Alleged dam release in North Korea forces South Koreans to leave Imjin River resort

Water levels on a bridge over a river in the southern border county of Yeongcheon rose above 1 meter (about 3.3 feet) on Monday afternoon, according to government figures, necessitating the evacuation of visitors along the riverbank.

“It appears that North Korea has released water from its Hwangan Dam,” said a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

Yeongcheon County said it sent out alert messages to nearby residents, warning them to move to a safer area.

The Imjin River separating North and South Korea, September 2013.

It was not immediately clear how many people were expected to leave after the supposed release of the water.

“Water levels are currently dropping after hovering at over 1.6 meters (5.2 feet),” a Yongcheon County official said.

North Korea is stepping up efforts to prevent damage from recent heavy rains.

South Korea has repeatedly urged the North to give notice before releasing water from the dam as the river flows through Yeongcheon, but Pyongyang has not responded.

In 2019, North Korea released water from a dam without warning, causing flash floods downstream that killed six South Koreans. Following this, officials from the two countries met to discuss the matter, with a North Korean delegate expressing regret for the loss of life and condolences to the affected families.