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tunnels under the DMZ
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A Longago Airman
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2002 8:43
Subject: Re: Tunnels under the DMZ
> ...Has anyone else heard of or have
seen these tunnels first hand?
> Is it possible to view them?
I’ve spent some time in them. They’re interesting and there is at
least one that is open to the public. I’ve included a long (with the list’s
indulgence) section from my NORTH KOREA SPECIAL FORCES - 2nd EDITION. It’s
somewhat dates but should be of assistance.
Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
Probably one of the most unusual aspects
of the KPA attempts to infiltrate the ROK, has been its efforts to tunnel
under the DMZ. These tunneling operations began during the early 1960s and
proceeded slowly through the late 1960s.[ii] <#_edn2> Prompted by
the fortification of the DMZ, in September 1971, Kim Il-song specifically
ordered the construction of infiltration tunnels along the DMZ stating,
“...one tunnel can be more powerful then ten atomic bombs put together
and the tunnels are the most ideal means of penetrating the South’s fortified
front line.”[iii] <#_edn3>
The engineer battalion of each
infantry division deployed directly on the DMZ was tasked with digging two
infiltration tunnels. With technical and logistic assistance being provided by
the Corps Engineer Department and General Staff Department’s - Engineer and
Rear Services Bureaus. The KPA normally deploys 11 infantry divisions along
the DMZ. Based on the estimate that each of these divisions is responsible for
2 infiltration tunnels there are theoretically 22 tunnels. Aside from the 4
located and neutralized tunnels ROK/U.S. intelligence currently estimates that
there are 18 suspected active tunnels in various stages of completion along
The first evidence of KPA tunneling operations emerged in
November 1973. When ROKA DMZ guards reported numerous explosions that started
north of the DMZ and gradually drew closer. Aerial and ground reconnaissance
failed to provide any reasonable explanation for these explosions, but road
improvements and the construction of fortifications were noted along the
northern edge of the DMZ. To keep track of these explosions seismic equipment
was deployed along the DMZ. This equipment soon yielded voluminous
information, recording 16,685 explosions on 877 different occasions in the
Ch’orwon area alone. Similar numbers were also recorded in the areas of the
major north-south routes along the length of the DMZ. However, the majority
were located in the west, along the routes that lead to Seoul.
November 1974, a KPA engineer defected and revealed that the KPA was tunneling
under the DMZ. More importantly he provided information on the locations of
two tunnels, one in the Korangp’o area and one in the Ch'orwon area. Acting on
this information, on 15 November, a ROKA patrol found steam rising from the
ground in the DMZ near Korangp’o. Five days later, a combined ROKA/UN team,
located what turned out to be a small tunnel. This tunnel, approximately .45
meters below the surface, was lined with concrete slabs for roofing and walls,
and had a small railway along its floor for the removal of spoil. The tunnel
had a total length of approximately 2,000 meters (1,000 meters south of the
MDL) and measured 1.2 meters high by 1.1 meters wide. Although small, this
tunnel would have enabled considerable numbers of light infantry and
reconnaissance personnel to pass undetected behind the forward ROK/U.S.
positions.[iv] <#_edn4> Miscellaneous materials found within the tunnel
included: six boxes of Soviet produced dynamite, Claymore mines, DPRK produced
watch, compass, canteens, telephone sets, pickaxes, light bulbs, and
Various methods were employed to locate the tunnel in the
Ch’orwon area. Including seismic, photographic, sonic, and others but with
little success. Finally, a series of exploratory bore holes were drilled on
what seemed a likely intercept line in a valley (thus ensuring only a minimum
amount of drilling would be required, and providing cover from KPA
observation). Approximately 55 bore holes were drilled, of which 7 proved to
be suspicious as they passed through cavities or the rock samples contained
sand, grass and other materials (none of which are geological features of
granite). In each case, a specially designed camera confirmed the existence of
a cavity. Additionally, thousands of gallons of water pumped into the bore
wholes, drained away quickly. However, it was the KPA who provided conclusive
evidence that these bore wholes had entered a tunnel. KPA engineers placed a
cement block under one of the shafts, and cement had never before been found
in 58 meters of granite.
The discovery of Ch’orwon tunnel was announced
on 19 March 1975, and the counter-tunnel was completed on 24 March. The
Ch’orwon tunnel, was approximately 50-150 meters below the surface, had a
total length of approximately 3,300 meters (1,100 meters south of the MDL) and
measured 2 meters high by 2 meters wide. There were three exits towards the
south and several wide sections in which troops could be gathered before
exiting. Although projections would not allow the passage of a jeep, smaller
vehicles and heavy weapons could have passed through it, as well as an
estimated 8,000 troops an hour. The tunnel was painstakingly cleared of 3
major blocks, all of which had been ‘booby-trapped’. This clearing operation
revealed two chambers used to house electric generators and machinery for
pumping air and water. On March 21, 1975, Kim Pu-song, a former member of the
Liaison Department who had defected to the ROK, stated that the KPA was
building other tunnels similar to the Ch’orwon tunnel; and that these tunnels
were designed to have five exits, of which only one or two were to be used
during ‘peacetime’, while all of the exits were to be used at a “decisive
time”. He further stated that he had personally participated in the
construction of a tunnel 4 km from Panmunjom.[v] <#_edn5> Continued
surveillance efforts paid off in mid-1978, when the ROKA located this tunnel.
This time only 4 km south of Panmunjom. On 10 June 1978 the ROKA began digging
an interception tunnel and on 17 October 1978 they broke through into the
third KPA infiltration tunnel. This tunnel, averaged 73 meters below the
surface, had a total length of approximately 1,640 meters (435 meters south of
the MDL) and measured 1.95 meters high by 2.1 meters wide.
1989, intelligence indicators detected a possible fourth tunnel. A bore holes
were drilled and located an open cavity. A counter-tunnel was then dug and on
3 March 1990 it intercepted a DPRK infiltration tunnel. This occurred
approximately 160 kilometers northeast of Seoul in the mountainous region
called the “Punchbowl,” the scene of heavy fighting during the war. This
tunnel, 144 meters below the surface, had a total length of approximately
1,850 meters (1,000 meters south of the MDL) and measured 1.8 meters high by
1.8 meters wide.[vi] <#_edn6>
Tunnel #1 Tunnel
#2 Tunnel #3 Tunnel #4
Discovery Date 15 November 1974
19 March 1975 17 October 1978 3 March 1990
Location 8 km northeast of
Korangp’o 13 km north of Ch’orwon 4 km south of Panmunjom 26 km north of
Height, m 1.2 2 1.95 1.7
Width, m .9 2 2.1 1.7
Depth, m .45
50-160 73 144
Length, m 3,500 3,500 1,640 2,052
Length South of MDL, m
1,000 1,100 435 1,028
Tunnel Lining Concrete None None none
Capacity 1 Regiment - 8,000 combat troops per hour - plus heavy equipment
Invasion Route Korangp’o - Uijongbu - Seoul (Total 65 km)
Ch’orwon - Pochon - Seoul (Total 101 km) Munsan - Seoul (Total 44 km)
The road work and construction of
fortifications which had been detected along the northern edge of the DMZ,
were apparently a part of a KPA deception plan to ensure that the huge
quantities of spoil produced by these tunnels would not spotted by ROK/U.S.
reconnaissance. Tunnel entries were also located in ‘dead ground’ to
photography from south of the DMZ. In 1984 there were still 18 suspected
active tunnels in various stages of completion along the DMZ.[vii]
<#_edn7> These tunnels are believed to be the same size as the
tunnel found near Ch’orwon. Surveillance of the suspected tunnel entrances,
and possible exits, continues but their exact locations or the extent of
construction remains undetermined. Whether these tunnels will be counter-tunneled if positively located is questionable due to the
enormous costs involved.
[i] <#_ednref1> Defense
White Paper 1990, pp. 75-77; Institute of Internal and External Affairs.
Inside North Korea: Three Decades of Duplicity, Seoul, July 1975, pp.
74-76; North Korean Affairs Institute, “Brief History of North Korean
Provocations Against South Korea: 1945-1977,” October 1977, pp. 43-44; Harris,
Major J. D. “Under The Land of Morning Calm,” British Army of the
Rhine, No.54, December 1976, pp. 45-47; Reed, David. “North Korea’s Secret
Invasion Tunnels,” Reader’s Digest, March 1980, pp. 90-94; Korean
Information Service. “Tunnels of War: North Korea Catacombs the DMZ,” Seoul,
Korea, 1978, 17 pages; and North Korea News. “P’yongyang Denounces U.S.
for Revealing North Korea’s Digging of Invasion Tunnels,” July 6, 1987, No.
380, pp. 2-3.
Sometime during 1961-1962 the
engineer battalion 26th Infantry Division, then located in Yunan-gun, South
Hwanghae Province began construction on an infiltration tunnel by digging into
the side of Yongkak Mountain. “Escape From the Jaws of Death (I),” p.
Defense White Paper 1990, p.
[iv] <#_ednref4> It is
quite possible that light infantry and reconnaissance personnel had used this
tunnel for a considerable period of time before its discovery.
<#_ednref5> Institute of Internal
and External Affairs. Inside North Korea: Three Decades of Duplicity,
Seoul, July 1975, pp. 75-76.
Defense White Paper 1990, pp.
75-78. “Korea-Tunnel,” The Associated Press, March 5, 1990; “U.N.
Command wants joint investigation to North Korea,” United Press International,
March 5, 1990; “Korea-Tunnel,” The Associated Press, March 4, 1990;
“Korea-Tunnel,” The Associated Press, March 3, 1990; and “Korea-Tunnel
Tour,” The Associated Press, July 7, 1994.
<#_ednref7> North Korean Special
Purpose Forces, p. 4.