Two soldiers building electric wire fences and concrete walls on the Sino-North Korean border near Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province, recently died after inadvertently stepping on a minefield, Daily NK has learned.
The soldiers were part of a contingent of military engineers building the foundations for the electric wire fences and concrete walls in an area five meters away from a minefield, a source in the province told Daily NK yesterday.
According to the source, the two soldiers who died were deployed to the region in early May and had been so quickly sent to the area that they had not been given safety instructions related to working in areas near minefields.
The source said that soldiers deployed to the region for construction work are so busy that they generally have no time to properly bathe or wash their uniforms or undergarments. At around 2 AM on May 13, the two soldiers had secretly gone out toward the Tumen River to collect water to wash their clothes when they accidently stepped on a minefield.
According to the source, what the authorities found even more concerning was that members of the border patrol and Storm Corps in the area where the incident occurred were either dozing at their posts or drinking alcohol at a local’s home while carrying their weapons. The authorities are reportedly punishing these soldiers under the belief that if they had stayed at their posts the incident would not have occurred.
“The two soldiers died because of explosions of several mines in the area they entered,” the source said. “Their unit command plans to issue death certificates for the two soldiers and send a document confirming their death during combat to [families in their] hometown.”
Following the incident, the military engineer unit command conducted a two-day training session for recently-arrived soldiers in the area about what to watch out for near minefields.
The unit command handed down an order prohibiting soldiers from moving about as they like during the night and emphasized that soldiers should never enter minefields and the one to two kilometer “buffer zone” around the border without permission or orders from their unit command.
“The unit command ordered soldiers to move in groups of at least three when travelling inside the buffer zone, and for these groups to appoint a group leader to help prevent any incidents from happening,” the source said.