Geumchang-ri Underground Facility

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Last Updated: September 30, 2011
Other Name: Kumchangni Underground Facility (금창리지하시설); Kumchangri Suspect Nuclear Site
Location: Geumchang-ri (금창리), Taegwan-gun (대관군), North Pyeongan Province (평안북도), North Korea
Subordinate To: Unknown
Size: an excavated area of about 400,000 square meters, four tunnels, two dams, a pipeline, and a staff housing area, all within a 4 km radius
Facility Status: Unknown

The U.S. suspected Geumchang-ri of being a nuclear facility when satellite photos showed construction of pipelines and underground tunnels in 1989. The suspicion deepened when it was determined that the same military construction crew that built the Yongbyon nuclear complex was also working on the site. Based on the vast amounts of excavated soil, some believed the site was large enough to conceal a reactor and/or reprocessing facility, and that the dams and pipeline would be part of a reactor cooling system. [1]

In December 1998, Washington and Pyongyang held talks to discuss the suspected site. North Korean officials initially insisted the site was used for food storage, and that the United States would have to pay a fee of $300 million to gain access to it. But later they reached an agreement accepting food assistance instead of cash. [2] U.S. officials were able to conduct an on-site inspection in May 1999. North Korea received 600,000 tons of food (worth about $300 million) through the World Food Program and other organizations subsequent to the inspection. [3]

The inspection revealed nothing but vast underground tunnels, and U.S. inspectors concluded that the Geumchang-ri facility was not a nuclear-related site. [4] These findings were confirmed in a second inspection conducted a year later in May 2000. Critics argue that these inspections do not preclude the possibility of the site being converted to a nuclear facility in the future. [5]

According to a defector testimony, [6] the Geumchang-ri underground facility is where the exhaust fumes have been ventilated from the underground uranium milling plant at Mt. Cheonma (천마산), located about 30km northwest of Geumchang-ri. [7]

[1] "북한 인민군 장성의 충격증언 [Defector DPRK General’s Shocking Testimony]," Shindonga (Donga Ilbo Magazine), August 2001.
[2] Yoon Seung-Yong, "[금창리 사찰대가] 북한, 식량지원도 무방 [Food Assistance OK for Keumchangri Inspections],” Hanguk Ilbo, 30 December 1998,
[3] "북한 인민군 장성의 충격증언 [Defector DPRK General’s Shocking Testimony]," Shindonga (Donga Ilbo Magazine), August 2001; “사면초가에 몰린 북한의 마지막 승부수: [정밀 분석] 제2차 북핵 위기 A to Z [North Korea Backed into a Corner: 2nd Nuclear Crisis A to Z],” Shindonga (Donga Ilbo Magazine), December 2002.
[4] Shin Jae-Min, "[금창리보고서 발표] 美 금창리 개조땐 핵시설 가능 [Geumchang-ri Inspection Results: Nuclear Development Possible if Reconfigured],” Hanguk Ilbo, 28 June 1999,
[5] "북한 인민군 장성의 충격증언 [Defector DPRK General’s Shocking Testimony]," Shindonga (Donga Ilbo Magazine), August 2001.
[6] Lee Choon-Seon, a major in the North Korean People’s Army, was debriefed while in the custody of the Chinese government. Before the South Korean government was able to bring him back to South Korea, he was repatriated to North Korea. This report is based on the Chinese report that was subsequently translated into Korean.
[7] "북한 인민군 장성의 충격증언 [Defector DPRK General’s Shocking Testimony]," Shindonga (Donga Ilbo Magazine), August 2001.

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