Utilization of International Watercourses on the Korean Peninsula

Challenges and Prospects


The history of rivers crossing the borders of rival countries, such as East and West Germany, China and Russia, the United States and its neighbors, has much to teach about international watercourse management. In the first book written in English about international watercourses on the Korean Peninsula, Yeonghwan Chang uses a study of foreign cases to propose a wide range of specific strategies and projects for efficient use of shared rivers on the Korean Peninsula. These strategies may also provide useful guidance for future cooperative projects between South Korea and North Korea.

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Yeonghwan Chang, JSD (2020), University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, is a public official at the National Assembly Secretariat of the Republic of Korea. He has written reports on the bills and budgets at the various committees since 2005.


List of Figures and Tables



2The Watercourses Shared by the Two Koreas
 1 Overview
 1.1 Facts
 1.1.1 The North Han River

 1.1.2 The Imjin River

 1.2 Characteristics of the Watercourses Shared by the Two Koreas
 1.2.1 Geographical Characteristics

 1.2.2 Topographic Characteristics

 1.2.3 Climate Change and Meteorological Characteristics

 1.2.4 Military Confrontation Area

 1.3 The Importance of International Watercourses on the Korean Peninsula
 1.3.1 Heartland of the Korean Peninsula

 1.3.2 Wildlife Sanctuary and Biodiversity Repository

 1.3.3 Water Source of the Metropolitan Area

 1.3.4 Power Source through Hydropower Generation

 1.3.5 Conservation of Cultural Heritages and Tourism

 2 The Distinctive Features of Inter-Korean Relations
 2.1 History of the Two Koreas

 2.2 The Dual Nature of Inter-Korean Relations
 2.2.1 The Constitution and the Laws in South Korea

 2.2.2 The Inter-Korean Basic Agreement

 2.2.3 Joining the UN

 2.3 How Should We Deal with the Shared Watercourses Issues between the Two Koreas?
 2.3.1 What Is an International Watercourse?

 2.3.2 The Relations between the Two Koreas on the Shared Watercourses

 2.3.3 East-West German Relations

 2.3.4 Are the Watercourses Shared by the Two Koreas International Watercourses?

3International Water Law and Cases
 1 International Water Disputes
 1.1 Water in the World

 1.2 International Watercourses in the World

 1.3 Water Disputes and Cooperation over International Watercourses

 2 Development of International Water Law
 2.1 Sources of International Law

 2.2 Formation of International Water Law
 2.2.1 Overview

 2.2.2 The Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers (1966)

 2.2.3 Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997)

 3 General Principles of International Water Law
 3.1 Theories and Doctrines of International Water Law
 3.1.1 Theory of Absolute Territorial Sovereignty

 3.1.2 Theory of Absolute Territorial Integrity

 3.1.3 Theory of Limited Territorial Sovereignty

 3.1.4 Theory of Community of Interest

 3.2 Principles of International Water Law
 3.2.1 Substantive Obligations

 3.2.2 Procedural Obligations

 4 The Cases
 4.1 The Diversion of Water from the Meuse Case (1937)
 4.1.1 Facts

 4.1.2 Summary of the Judgment

 4.1.3 Lesson

 4.2 Trail Smelter Case (1938)
 4.2.1 Facts

 4.2.2 Summary of the Judgment

 4.2.3 Lesson

 4.3 Lake Lanoux Arbitration Case (1957)
 4.3.1 Facts

 4.3.2 Summary of the Judgment

 4.3.3 Lesson

 4.4 Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project Case (1997)
 4.4.1 Facts

 4.4.2 Summary of the Judgment

 4.4.3 Lesson

 4.5 Pulp Mills Case (2010)
 4.5.1 Facts

 4.5.2 Summary of the Judgment

 4.5.3 Lesson

4Water Dispute on the Korean Peninsula
 1 Water Dispute History
 1.1 The North Han River Basin
 1.1.1 North Korea’s Dam Construction

 1.1.2 Effects of the Dam’s Construction in the North Korean Territory

 1.1.3 South Korea’s Dam Construction in Response

 1.2 The Imjin River Basin
 1.2.1 North Korea’s Dam Construction

 1.2.2 Effects of Dam Construction in North Korean Territory

 1.2.3 South Korea’s Dam Construction in Response

 1.2.4 South Korea’s Other Actions

 2 North Korea’s Actions under the International Law
 2.1 North Korea’s Limited Water Rights

 2.2 North Korea’s Actions Affect South Korea

 2.3 The Breach of the International Law
 2.3.1 Breach of the Obligation to Consult with Other Riparian States

 2.3.2 Breach of the Principle of Equitable and Reasonable Utilization

 2.3.3 Breach of the Obligation Not to Cause Significant Harm

 2.3.4 Breach of the Obligation to Cooperate

 2.3.5 Breach of the Obligation to Protect International Watercourses and Their Ecosystems

 2.3.6 Breach of the Obligation of Prior Notification

 2.4 The Limitation of the International Law
 2.4.1 Dispute Settlement under the International Law

 2.4.2 Limitation

 2.4.3 Lesson

5Proposal for the Improved Cooperative Management of Korea’s International Watercourses
 1 Necessities of the Improved Cooperative Management
 1.1 Limitation of Solution Under International Law

 1.2 Cooperation for Disaster Prevention

 1.3 Conflict caused by the Decrease in Water Volume

 1.4 The Conservation of Biodiversity

 1.5 The Establishment of Peace on the Korean Peninsula
 1.5.1 Building Trust between the Two Koreas and Easing Military Tension

 1.5.2 First Step Toward Revitalizing Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation

 2 Cooperative Management Efforts
 2.1 The North Han River
 2.1.1 Background

 2.1.2 Progress

 2.1.3 Results

 2.2 The Imjin River
 2.2.1 Background

 2.2.2 Progress

 2.2.3 Results

 2.3 The Joint Investigation of the Han River Estuary
 2.3.1 Background

 2.3.2 Progress

 2.3.3 Results

 2.4 Joint Cooperative Body in the Past
 2.4.1 The Imjin River Flood Control Council

 2.4.2 The Office of Inter-Korean Dialogue

 2.5 Conclusion

 3 Obstacles to Successful Cooperation between the Two Koreas
 3.1 General Reason
 3.1.1 Constraints Factor on Trust Formation

 3.1.2 Conflicts of Interest

 3.1.3 Sovereignty

 3.1.4 Limitations on Enforcement

 3.2 Military Confrontation
 3 . 2 . 1  dmz

 3.2.2 Landmines

 3.3 Concern about Regime Collapse

 3.4 Sanctions against North Korea
 3.4.1 International Level

 3.4.2 Domestic Level

 3.5 Legal and Institutional Restrictions
 3.5.1 Land Use Regulation

 3.5.2 Regulation Concerning Inter-Korean Relations

 3.5.3 Problems with the South Korean Legal Framework

 3.6 Financial Burden

 3.7 National Consensus

 4 Cooperation Cases Studies on the International Watercourses
 4.1 United Germany
 4.1.1 Background

 4.1.2 Progress

 4.1.3 Specific Cases

 4.1.4 Lesson

 4.2 North Korea, China, and Russia
 4.2.1 Facts

 4.2.2 Border River Management between North Korea and China

 4.2.3 Border River Management between North Korea and Russia

 4.2.4 Lesson

 4.3 The United States and Canada
 4.3.1 Background

 4.3.2 The Boundary Waters Treaty

 4.3.3 The International Joint Commission

 4.3.4 The Columbia River Treaty

 4.3.5 Lesson

 4.4 The United States and Mexico
 4.4.1 Background

 4.4.2 The International Boundary and Water Commission ( ibwc )

 4.4.3 Treaties and Minutes

 4.4.4 Lesson

 4.5 The States on the Mekong River Basin
 4.5.1 Facts

 4.5.2 Water Conflicts

 4.5.3 The Mekong River Commission

 4.5.4 Lesson

 5 Strategies for Improved Cooperative Management
 5.1 Step-by-Step Approach
 5.1.1 Pursue in Line with the Development Stage of Inter-Korean Relations.

 5.1.2 Start with Small and Short-Term Projects

 5.1.3 North Korea’s Needs and Interests First

 5.1.4 Start with the Technical Field

 5.1.5 Pursue in Line with International Sanctions

 5.2 Package-Driven Approach: Linkage between Projects
 5.2.1 Interdisciplinary Resources

 5.2.2 Linkage Between Upstream and Downstream Issues

 5.2.3 Baskets of Benefits: Win-Win Strategy

 5.3 Multilateral Approach
 5.3.1 Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation

 5.3.2 Local Governments

 5.3.3 Establishing a Foundation for Promoting Exchange and Cooperation in the Private Sector

 5.3.4 International Organization and ngo

 5.4 Within the Framework of Unification Policy and National Territory Policy
 5.4.1 Efficient Utilization of National Land

 5.4.2 Comprehensive National Land Plan

 5.4.3 Comprehensive Development Plan in the Border Area

 5.4.4 To the Extent that the Environment Is Not Damaged

 6 Specific Cooperation Project
 6.1 Disaster Prevention

 6.2 Cooperation in Using the Shared Water Resources

 6.3 Joint Hydrological Investigation and Data Sharing

 6.4 Uniformity of Metrological and Technical Standards

 6.5 Technical Aid (Including Dam Repair or New Power Generation Facility Installation)

 6.6 Forest Restoration

 6.7 Conservation and Utilization of Ecosystems

 6.8 Preservation and Restoration of Historic Sites

 7 Way to Improve Operational Efficiency
 7.1 Setting Up a Joint Management Plan

 7.2 Necessity to Conclude a Treaty

 7.3 Efficient Joint Cooperative Management Body: Standing Border Commission

 8 Role of the National Assembly
 8.1 Overview
 8.1.1 Legislative Facts

 8.1.2 Importance of Legislation

 8.1.3 Legislative Trends in the National Assembly

 8.1.4 Ambiguity of the Law

 8.2 Areas that Require Legislative Efforts
 8.2.1 Joint Water Resources Management

 8.2.2 Inter-Korean Communication and Cooperation

 8.2.3 Financial Support

 8.2.4 Special Economic Zone or Special Administrative Zone

 8.2.5 Joint Inter-Korean Border Commission

 8.3 Special Committee on Inter-Korean Affairs in the National Assembly




Scholars, practitioners, and diplomats interested in international water law and inter-Korean cooperation projects, and those who are interested in using the shared rivers on the Korean Peninsula.
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