Assessment of the Impact of August 2021 Rainfall and Flooding in the DPRK
In August 2021, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) experienced heavy rainfall and severe flooding. ONN has analysed available open-source information and identified locations of possible damage and assessed the scope of such damage. This paper provides a summary of ONN’s findings.
From 1 to 3 August 2021, multiple cities and counties in North Hamgyong Province and South Hamgyong Province in the DPRK were affected by heavy rainfall which recorded precipitation levels that far exceeded historical averages. ONN gathered and analysed information from DPRK media and satellite imagery, as well as data from monitoring stations in or near the DPRK. ONN's findings are summarized below:
- The extensive damage to building/housing areas, roads, bridges and riversides in North Hamgyong Province and South Hamgyong Province, as reported in DPRK media, can be confirmed through satellite imagery. Although they were not mentioned in DPRK media, other provinces were also adversely impacted.
- According to DPRK media reports, several square kilometres of agricultural fields in South Hamgyong Province were flooded, while 17 km of roads, 8.1 km of embankment and multiple bridges were damaged. Based on available satellite imagery, ONN has confirmed that, at a minimum, approximately 3.7 km2 of agricultural fields and approximately 6.8 km-long roads and embankments were affected in or near Sinhung County and Yonggwang County in South Hamgyong Province, the most heavily damaged areas in the DPRK due to the heavy rainfall and flooding in early August. While the full extent of the damage is not yet precisely known, the scale of the affected areas suggests that the damage may have a significant impact on crops in the coming weeks.
- DPRK media has also reported that the heavy rainfall and flooding appear to have created damage in North Hamgyong Province. The affected areas include the Komusan area in North Hamgyong Province where the Komusan Cement Factory is located. According to a DPRK media report, this factory is equipped with “a high-quality refractory workshop” and has served as one of the key producers of cement products in North Hamgyong Province. Satellite imagery shows that the railways used by this factory were flooded and possibly damaged. Prolonged damage to these railways could constrain the local capacity to produce and supply cement products to reconstruction sites in affected areas.
- Water levels have risen significantly at dams and water reservoirs, recovering from the reduced levels caused by the drought in July. Although there are signs of possible overflow of water at some of the reservoirs, there are no visible signs of damage to these dams or reservoirs.
- No damage could be observed at most facilities known to be related to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes, with the exception of the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground where some of the buildings were flooded. However, it is unclear whether these buildings were damaged.
- The precipitation levels in August reported by monitoring stations in and near the DPRK indicate several unusual spikes that are many times higher than historical averages, particularly on and around 10 and 21 August. As of 31 August 2021, the monsoon season had not yet concluded in the DPRK. A prolonged period of heavy rainfall and flooding could further weaken the soil, which could cause further damage to roads, railways, riversides and agricultural areas. To prevent additional damage, further measures would be needed for the DPRK to ensure the integrity of these structures and locations.
- Some regions in the DPRK experienced only low levels of precipitation in August, including Pyonggang County in Kangwon Province, where a drought has been continuing since mid-July. In summary, the DPRK has suffered from extreme weather conditions — both heavy rainfall and drought — some of which continue to prevail. The extreme weather conditions are expected to impose significant economic and social costs on the DPRK.