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Two Koreas Start First Joint Survey of Han River Estuary Waterway

Two Koreas' joint waterway survey team:
will measure the depth of waterways, required for vessels' safe navigationcomposed of 10 officials from each side…aiming to complete the survey by the end of the year
will board six Republic of Korean vessels to carry out the survey According to a Ministry of National Defense spokesperson: “The Han River estuary will be transformed into a site of peace”

The two Koreas launched a joint survey of waterways on November 5th, as the first step to ensure civilian vessels' safe navigation along the estuaries of the Han and Imjin rivers. This is the first joint survey of this area in the 65 years since the armistice agreement was signed in 1953. 

The waterway survey is being conducted to identify the level at which vessels can safely sail by measuring the depth of the waterways from the vessels to the riverbed using sound and then measuring the water level, which changes depending on tide. After the survey is complete, a vessel navigation map can be made.

While the armistice agreement allows for the free movement of civilian vessels within the estuary of Han River, thus far the estuary has been off-limits to civilians because it has been managed as "sensitive waters." For this reason, it had previously been impossible to systematically perform a basic survey, such as a hydrographic survey, and gather navigation information, such as in a nautical chart.

Survey of Han River

At the 10th general-level military talks, the two Koreas' military authorities agreed to militarily guarantee civilian vessels' navigation within the estuary of Han River during the Sept. 19 military agreement, and to organize an inter-Korean survey team for a joint survey of waterways.

The joint survey is conducted on the 70-kilometer-long waterway that the two Koreas agreed to use together, running from the northeastern tip of Republic of Korea's Gimpo Peninsula to the southwestern tip of Gyodong Island, and from North Korea’s Imhan-ri, Panmun County, Kaesong to Haenam-ri, Yonan County, South Hwanghae Province. The inter-Korean survey team is composed of 20 members, 10 from each side, including military officials and waterway experts. Six Republic of Korean vessels that use an acoustic program will be deployed to the zone for the joint survey. Members of the inter-Korean survey team will meet at the given zone within the estuary and board the Republic of Korean vessels to carry out on-site investigations. The joint survey will cost about 499 million won. The rental fee for the six vessels and equipment, which represents the largest part of the budget and amounts to 418 million won, will be supported via the Ministry of Unification's Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund.

“The Han River estuary for the joint survey is a complex zone, where seawater is mixed with fresh water. It is shallow, has a high tidal range ranging from 3 meters to 7 meters, flows quickly, and is frozen during the winter season,” said an official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. “By the end of the year, we will complete the on-site survey. To do this, the survey zone will be divided into three sections (A, B, and C) and two vessels will be deployed simultaneously to each section in order to complete the survey before the estuary is frozen and to guarantee the safety of the on-site survey."
“The estuary of the Han River doesn’t have a military demarcation line, making it highly likely that an accidental clash can occur. This waterway survey will pave the way for the Han River estuary to be transformed into a site of peace. The two Koreas' military authorities and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will continue to make joint efforts to normally conduct a joint survey of the estuaries of the Han and Imjin rivers, as specified in the Sept. 19 military agreement,” said a Ministry of National Defense spokesperson.

By Chul-Hwan, Kim < >
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