Monitoring river basin development and variation in water resources in transboundary Imjin River in North and South Korea using remote sensing

Donghwan Kim, Hyongki Lee, Hahn Chul Jung, Euiho Hwang, Faisal Hossain, Matthew Bonnema, Do Hyuk Kang, Augusto Getirana

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents methods of monitoring river basin development and water variability for the transboundary river in North and South Korea. River basin development, such as dams and water infrastructure in transboundary rivers, can be a potential factor of tensions between upstream and downstream countries since dams constructed upstream can adversely affect downstream riparians. However, because most of the information related to North Korea has been limited to the public, the information about dams constructed and their locations were inaccurate in many previous studies. In addition, water resources in transboundary rivers can be exploited as a political tool. Specifically, due to the unexpected water release from the Hwanggang Dam, upstream of the transboundary Imjin River in North and South Korea, six South Koreans died on 6 September 2009. The Imjin River can be used as a political tool by North Korea, and seven events were reported as water conflicts in the Imjin River from 2001 to 2016. In this paper, firstly, we have updated the information about the dams constructed over the Imjin River in North Korea using multi-temporal images with a high spatial resolution (15-30 cm) obtained from Google Earth. Secondly, we analyzed inter-and intra-water variability over the Hwanggang Reservoir using open-source images obtained from the Global SurfaceWater Explorer. We found a considerable change in water surface variability before and after 2008, which might result from the construction of the Hwanggang Dam. Thirdly, in order to further investigate intra-annual water variability, we present a method monitoring water storage changes of the Hwanggang Reservoir using the area-elevation curve (AEC), which was derived from multi-sensor Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images (Sentinel-1A and-1B) and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SrTM) Digital Elevation Model (DEM). Since many previous studies for estimating water storage change have depended on satellite altimetry dataset and optical images for deriving AEC, the method adopted in this study is the only application for such inaccessible areas since no altimetry ground track exists for the Hwanggang Reservoir and because clouds can block the study area for wet seasons. Moreover, this study has newly proven that unexpected water release can occur in dry seasons because the water storage in the Hwanggang Reservoir can be high enough to conduct a release that can be used as a geopolitical tool. Using our method, potential risks can be mitigated, not in response to a water release, but based on pre-event water storage changes in the Hwanggang Reservoir.

Original languageEnglish
Article number195
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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