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Re: Tunnels under the DMZ

Title: 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.

Best regards,
Joe B.

Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

The DMZ Tunnels[i] <#_edn1>

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 DMZ.

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.

In 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 more.

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.

In December 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 Yanggu
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
Troop Capacity 1 Regiment - 8,000 combat troops per hour - plus heavy equipment  1 Regiment
Invasion Route Korangp’o - Uijongbu - Seoul (Total 65 km) Ch’orwon - Pochon - Seoul (Total 101 km) Munsan - Seoul (Total 44 km) Suhwha-Wontong-Yongdong highway

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.

[ii] <#_ednref2>        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. 13.

[iii] <#_ednref3>       Defense White Paper 1990, p. 75.

[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.

[v] <#_ednref5>       Institute of Internal and External Affairs. Inside North Korea: Three Decades of Duplicity, Seoul, July 1975, pp. 75-76.

[vi] <#_ednref6>       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.

[vii] <#_ednref7>       North Korean Special Purpose Forces, p. 4.