ROK forces, partners protect public during rough rainy season

ROK forces, partners protect public during rough rainy season

Felix Kim

Flood forecasting and storm preparation paid off for South Korea as the country’s Armed Forces worked with civilian agencies to protect citizens while torrential rains swept the country in August 2020.

From removing unexploded land mines to taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Republic of Korea (ROK) Soldiers played a pivotal role in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The country’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) pooled efforts with the Ministry of Environment by training specialists and sharing hydrological data to predict river-level rise. This protects the Armed Forces’ operational capabilities and enables the military to perform disaster relief, the MND stated in a news release.

After meeting with military commanders August 2 to assess unit preparedness in vulnerable areas, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo suspended work on nonflood operations in those regions and ordered troops to be alert for landslides and other storm-related dangers. (Pictured: Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo greets a Soldier while visiting flood-damaged areas of South Korea.)

As of August 10, the floods had killed 30 people. By then, Jeong had mobilized “as much force and equipment as possible to help the people affected by the torrential rain,” the MND reported. He visited the hard-hit provinces of Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do before traveling to Chungbuk.

“As the basic mission of the military is to take responsibility for the lives, property and safety of the people, it is necessary to actively support them to recover their home as early as possible,” Jeong said.

Soldiers worked to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he added, and assisted civilian recovery efforts.

Eighteen cities and counties in central and southern South Korea had been declared disaster zones by August 14. On August 19, the ROK Army deployed 5,499 Soldiers from 127 units and equipment such as laundry trailers, drones and mine detectors to 40 cities and counties. The ROK Navy and Marine Corps deployed more than 640 personnel and 20 pieces of equipment, including excavators, and the Air Force deployed 140 Airmen and HH-60 helicopters.

Specialist ROK military units and U.S. Forces Korea units searched for mines that could have been carried south by floods in the Demilitarized Zone and other border regions. The mines were among millions placed on the Korean Peninsula during the 1950-53 conflict.

Felix Kim is a FORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea.