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Lights Out: North Korea Removes Streetlights from Key Roads

North Korea removes streetlights
Mines installed on Gyeongui Line
North Korea displays intention to sever ties with South

Source: KBS

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who has recently shown overt hostility towards South Korea, has reportedly expressed his anger by removing the streetlights along the roads connecting South Korea from Mount Kumgang and Kaesong Industrial Complex. North Korea is expected to continue its hostile policy towards South Korea by repositioning its military around the road.

On the 18th, Lee Sung Jun, Head of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff’s (JCS) public affairs bureau, surprised everyone during a regular briefing by saying, “South Korea’s military has confirmed that North Korea recently dismantled facilities around the Gyeongui Line and Donghae Line. We believe the dismantling took place last month.”

The dismantled facilities mentioned are the streetlights of the Gyeongui Line and Donghae Line, and our military surveillance equipment captured their status.

The Gyeongui Line road, completed in 2004, was one of the routes to the Kaesong Industrial Complex as inter-Korean connection work was underway, and the inter-Korean immigration office was installed the following year.

However, it has been reported that it has not been used since the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in 2016 and the withdrawal of South Korean personnel from the Inter-Korean Liaison Office due to the global outbreak of COVID-19.

Also, the Donghae Line, which opened in 2005, was a major road that served as a passage between North and South Korea, with vehicles coming and going for land tourism in Mount Kumgang and meetings of separated families. This road connects Jejin-ri, Hyeonnae-myeon, Goseong-gun, Gangwon-do, and Onjeong-ri, Mount Kumgang, North Korea.

However, the Donghae Line was closed when tourism in Mount Kumgang ceased due to the incident when Park Wang Ja was killed by a North Korean soldier in 2008.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification stated that the removal of streetlights from this virtually closed road constitutes “a violation of the spirit of the inter-Korean agreement” and that “North Korea must clearly understand that it has an obligation to repay because this project was carried out with the support of our government’s loan.”

Various opinions have been put forward about why North Korea suddenly removed the streetlights. The most likely opinion is that North Korea is symbolically showing the severance of inter-Korean relations by removing even the streetlights.

North Korea’s move to lay mines on the Gyeongui Line and Donghae Line roads in January, followed by the removal of streetlights, is claimed to be a follow-up measure to the severance declaration of inter-Korean relations announced by Kim Jong Un last year.

At the end of last year, Kim Jong Un defined inter-Korean relations as “currently hostile, two countries at war.”

It is speculated to be a move to approve the complete intention to sever inter-Korean relations, as Kim Jong Un himself stepped in during the Supreme People’s Assembly government speech and ordered a thorough separation of inter-Korean connections in the border area, such as the Gyeongui Line.

Another opinion raised as to why Kim Jong Un ordered the removal of streetlights is that North Korea’s available resources have become scarce. It’s suggested that due to the current resource shortage in North Korea, dozens of streetlights were removed for recycling as scrap metal.

However, suppose North Korea used the removed streetlights due to a lack of resources, according to the opinion of the South Korean Ministry of Unification. In that case, North Korea should repay the loan contract for the streetlight contract to our government because it is a contracted loan.

The South Korean government supported $132.9 million for materials and equipment needed to construct roads, stations, and railways in the North Korean section of the Gyeongui Line and Donghae Line from 2001 to 2008.

지뢰 매설한 경의선 가로등 끊어버린 북한, 본심은?

Lastly, it is also seen as a message symbolizing that there will be no more reunions of separated families as a reason why North Korea removed the streetlights.

Meanwhile, South Korean military authorities are closely monitoring North Korea’s unusual actions.

A South Korean Unification Ministry official said, “Our military has confirmed that North Korea recently dismantled some facilities on the Donghae Line, and we believe there is no military impact. The military is closely observing and tracking the situation in North Korea.”

The military authorities are also thoroughly investigating the reason for North Korea’s removal of streetlights and plan to announce the investigation results later.

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