The scale of damage caused by drought is on the rise in South Korea. The country has been experiencing a 4–6-year cycle of extreme droughts at a nationwide scale. From 2014–2015, South Korea suffered from its worst drought in the past 50 years. This study aims to provide an effective drought management policy by analyzing the Korean government's response to the 2014–2015 drought under the National Drought Management Framework, which is composed of four stages: prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. The findings indicate that the Korean government effectively addressed the drought, yet there are no measures currently in place to cope with megadroughts that last for more than 5 consecutive years. Immediate attention is required to conduct research and introduce policies that will help in managing megadroughts. This paper takes an interdisciplinary approach to drought preparedness research in the context of megadroughts and proposes an efficient national drought management framework that involves engagement of relevant line ministries.

Introduction

Since 2015, droughts that follow abnormal weather patterns have been seriously impacting Asian countries, including India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea. Approximately one-quarter of India's population is faced with inaccessibility of safe drinking water and with water shortage due to extreme drought. River levels in the Mekong Delta are at their lowest in the past century due to severe drought. The resulting intrusion of seawater has ruined almost 700,000 hectares of farmland in the region. Korea has been experiencing its worst drought in 50 years. Many farmers in Australia and New Zealand have been forced to sell their livestock due to water and pasture shortages, while approximately 32 million people in Africa are suffering from hunger as a result of drought-induced agricultural losses. Drought has serious socioeconomic repercussions and is regarded as a serious issue (Wilhite, 2000). Many predict that the negative impacts of droughts will continue to grow worldwide, and that solutions are urgently needed (Trenberth et al., 2004).

South Korea has been experiencing a 5–6-year cycle of extreme droughts. Recent historical extreme droughts have occurred during the periods of 1967–1968, 1994–1995, and 2014–2015. Each drought has caused severe damage and has seriously impacted the Korean economy. If the current drought, which started in 2014 and persisted throughout 2015, continues in 2016, it is likely to become the most severe drought in Korea's history. The 2014–2015 drought alone is considered the worst in recorded history from the standpoint of severity and duration. As a result of the drought, South Chungcheong Province has introduced restrictive water rationing and restriction of in-stream flow and agricultural water for a number of multi-purpose dams in the Han River and Geum River Basin. This drought prompted in-depth discussions between relevant line ministries (Ministry of Public Safety and Security (MPSS); Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MLIT); Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (MAFRA); Ministry of Environment (MOE); and the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA)) and water-related public companies (Korea Water Resources Corporation and Korea Rural Community Corporation), as well as academics with the goal of implementing cooperative mechanisms and reviewing Korea's current drought management system.

Drought management involves phases of monitoring, response, and recovery, and encompasses various disciplines, such as hydrology, meteorology, agriculture, and disaster prevention and mitigation. Thus drought management necessitates a holistic and integrated approach from relevant government authorities. As such, the Korean government implements a comprehensive drought management plan led by the MPSS. This ministry is in charge of disaster management through cooperation with the relevant line ministries, which include the MLIT, MAFRA, MOE, and the KMA.

The current study reviews Korea's natural disaster management policy, which focuses on flood and drought, and identifies the major issues at hand. The damage and impacts caused by droughts recurring every 4 to 6 years are examined along with the water-related ministries' preparedness and response plans for the different stages of drought. The actions of the central government, provincial government, and water-related public companies are analyzed to examine how the participants collaborated and responded coherently to the 2014–2015 drought. The findings are compared with responses to past droughts to draw lessons learned. The study concludes with recommendations to improve Korea's national drought management policy and framework.

2014–2015 drought in historical perspective

Drought history in Korea

Climatologically, Korea is located in a monsoon area. The country experiences a wet summer season from June through August, when nearly half of the annual precipitation falls. The winter and spring are relatively dry, and, in times of absolute shortage of summer rainfall, the country has suffered droughts. This has been the fixed weather pattern in Korea for a very long time. The ‘Annals of the Joseon Dynasty’ record a total of 100 droughts occurring over a period of 519 years (1392–1910) of the dynasty, with severe droughts occurring every 4–6 years. The world's first rain gauge was invented in 1441 to observe rainfall in a quantitative manner, and as such, to monitor drought conditions. Since agriculture was the key industry under the Joseon Dynasty, various agricultural technologies, such as irrigation and reservoir projects, were implemented to overcome droughts. These technologies were compiled into books. Table 1 presents details that were recorded in the annals during the reign of kings throughout the Joseon Dynasty, including the number of times that drought was mentioned. In the past, when a drought occurred, the king and his officials examined whether they had fulfilled their responsibilities and performed rituals and ceremonies praying for rain (Kim, 2001). The records show that the Korean peninsula has never been drought-free.

Table 1.

Droughts recorded in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (Kim, 2001).

King Regnal years Length of reign (YYYY/MM) Records of drought King Regnal years Length of reign (YYYY/MM) Records of drought 
Taejo 1392/07–1398/09 21 Injo 26 1623/03–1649/05 168 
Jeongjong 1398/09–1400/11 Hyojong 10 1649/05–1659/05 98 
Taejong 18 1400/11–1418/08 158 Hyeonjong 15 1659/05–1674/08 105 
Sejong 31 1418/08–1450/02 322 Hyeongae – – 154 
Munjong 1450/02–1452/05 17 Sukjong 45 1674/08–1720/06 214 
Danjong 1452/05–1455/06 25 Sukbo – – 
Sejo 13 1455/06–1468/09 38 Gyeongjong 1720/06–1724/09 22 
Yejong 1468/09–1469/11 Gyeongsu – – 
Seongjong 25 1469/11–1494/12 442 Yeongjo 52 1724/08–1776/03 233 
Yeonsan 12 1494/12–1506/09 53 Jeongjo 24 1776/03–1800/06 151 
Jungjong 38 1506/09–1544/11 452 Sunjo 34 1800/07–1834/11 49 
Injong 1544/11–1545/07 Heonjong 15 1834/11–1849/06 
Myeongjong 22 1545/07–1567/06 145 Cheoljong 14 1849/06–1863/12 
Seonjo 41 1567/07–1608/02 121 Gojong 44 1863/12–1907/07 − 
Seonsu − − 14 Sunjong 1907/07–1910/08 − 
Gwanghae 18 1608/02–1623/03 98     
Total no. of drought records 3,135 
King Regnal years Length of reign (YYYY/MM) Records of drought King Regnal years Length of reign (YYYY/MM) Records of drought 
Taejo 1392/07–1398/09 21 Injo 26 1623/03–1649/05 168 
Jeongjong 1398/09–1400/11 Hyojong 10 1649/05–1659/05 98 
Taejong 18 1400/11–1418/08 158 Hyeonjong 15 1659/05–1674/08 105 
Sejong 31 1418/08–1450/02 322 Hyeongae – – 154 
Munjong 1450/02–1452/05 17 Sukjong 45 1674/08–1720/06 214 
Danjong 1452/05–1455/06 25 Sukbo – – 
Sejo 13 1455/06–1468/09 38 Gyeongjong 1720/06–1724/09 22 
Yejong 1468/09–1469/11 Gyeongsu – – 
Seongjong 25 1469/11–1494/12 442 Yeongjo 52 1724/08–1776/03 233 
Yeonsan 12 1494/12–1506/09 53 Jeongjo 24 1776/03–1800/06 151 
Jungjong 38 1506/09–1544/11 452 Sunjo 34 1800/07–1834/11 49 
Injong 1544/11–1545/07 Heonjong 15 1834/11–1849/06 
Myeongjong 22 1545/07–1567/06 145 Cheoljong 14 1849/06–1863/12 
Seonjo 41 1567/07–1608/02 121 Gojong 44 1863/12–1907/07 − 
Seonsu − − 14 Sunjong 1907/07–1910/08 − 
Gwanghae 18 1608/02–1623/03 98     
Total no. of drought records 3,135 

Figure 1 shows recent historical extreme drought years of Korea since 1960. Recent records kept since 1960 show that Korea has experienced an extreme drought every 4–6 years (Lee et al., 2012). Multiyear droughts (>2 years' duration) have occurred in 1967–1968, 1976–1977, 1981–1982, and 1994–1995. According to modern scientific meteorological observations kept since 1910, the 2014–2015 droughts are considered to have been the most severe droughts around the Han River Basin in the past 100 years.
Fig. 1.

Historical drought years in Korea since the 1960s. Korea's droughts have occurred every 4–6 years, with durations ranging from 3 to 22 months.

Fig. 1.

Historical drought years in Korea since the 1960s. Korea's droughts have occurred every 4–6 years, with durations ranging from 3 to 22 months.

Table 2 shows the financial loss incurred per drought year. Multiyear drought hit South Korea in 1967–1968, 1976–1977, 1981–1982, and 1994–1995. The 1967–1968 drought stands as the drought incurring the greatest financial damage on record, with peak losses of 700,928 million Korean won in 1968. The financial loss due to drought damage was calculated for each year by converting the damaged area of paddy and upland fields into yield rates using the purchase price of rice. The annual gross domestic product (GDP) was used to estimate the relative scale of the damage costs. Lastly, the costs were adjusted to year 2000 prices to maintain comparability of the values. The results indicate a decreasing trend over time in both the damage costs and drought-affected area. When comparing the droughts in the 1960s with the 1980s and 1990s, the data show a decrease of about 50% in the area damaged by droughts for similar volumes of annual rainfall. This is thought to be attributed to the continuous development of irrigation and agricultural water supplies.

Table 2.

Damage cost for historical drought years (MAFRA, 2001).

Drought year Damaged area (ha) Damage costs (million won) Annual GDP (million won) Damage costs adjusted to year 2000 prices (million won) 
1967 420,547 626,615 1,313,260 822,244 
1968 470,422 700,928 1,692,340 919,758 
1976 28,218 42,044 14,413,200 55,170 
1977 60,222 89,370 18,520,300 117,271 
1981 145,457 216,730 49,324,000 284,393 
1982 231,244 344,533 56,858,600 452,096 
1992 31,523 46,969 273,267,400 61,633 
1994 231,569 249,281 366,054,200 313,745 
Drought year Damaged area (ha) Damage costs (million won) Annual GDP (million won) Damage costs adjusted to year 2000 prices (million won) 
1967 420,547 626,615 1,313,260 822,244 
1968 470,422 700,928 1,692,340 919,758 
1976 28,218 42,044 14,413,200 55,170 
1977 60,222 89,370 18,520,300 117,271 
1981 145,457 216,730 49,324,000 284,393 
1982 231,244 344,533 56,858,600 452,096 
1992 31,523 46,969 273,267,400 61,633 
1994 231,569 249,281 366,054,200 313,745 

Spatiotemporal distribution of the 2014–2015 drought

The 2014–2015 drought is assessed as the worst drought in Korea's history since the 1960s. The drought started in January 2014 and progressed through great summer rainfall shortages that were centered in the Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces (upper region of South Korea). The southern portion of Korea received a small amount of precipitation during the winter season, but the overall precipitation shortage continued in 2015, when the overall annual precipitation reached only half of the historical average. On June 19, 2015, the low-water level of the multi-purpose dam located on the Soyang River in Gangwon Province was recorded at 152.24 m, the second lowest since the 151.93 m record on June 24, 1978. The reservoir became nearly depleted as a result of the decreased inflow.

Figure 2 presents the meteorological drought conditions of the Han River Basin (the northern part of South Korea) during the 2014–2015 drought using the 6-month standardized precipitation index (SPI), a drought index that can be calculated from 6 months of accumulated precipitation. The SPI indicates that the drought, which started in June 2014, escalated to a severe drought when the annual summer typhoons and heavy rains did not take place. While a late typhoon in the fall did bring rainfall to the southern region after September, the drought continued into 2015, leading to a more severe drought from August to December 2015.
Fig. 2.

Six-month SPI map for South Korea during 2014–2015 drought.

Fig. 2.

Six-month SPI map for South Korea during 2014–2015 drought.

Hydrological impact: reservoir and stream flow

Table 3 presents drought disaster alerts released throughout 2014–2015 by nine main multi-purpose dams in South Korea. While most of the reservoirs managed to stay at a ‘watch’ level owing to flexible reservoir operation and water supply management, the Boryeong Dam reservoir level dropped very low and issued higher alert levels (i.e., ‘emergency’ alerts).

Table 3.

Disaster alerts released by multi-purpose dams during the 2014–2015 drought, by alert classification and date range (yy/mm/dd).

Soyang River Dam/Choongju Dam Andong Dam/Imha Dam Daecheong Dam Yongdam Dam Juam Dam Boryeong Dam 
(Watch) 15/3/25–15/12/31 (Watch) 14/8/20–14/10/22 (Watch) 15/7/8–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/8/14–15/9/22 (Warning) 15/9/23–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/3/27–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/9/21–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/8/5–15/8/14 (Warning) 15/8/15–15/8/17 (Emergency) 15/8/18–15/12/31 
Soyang River Dam/Choongju Dam Andong Dam/Imha Dam Daecheong Dam Yongdam Dam Juam Dam Boryeong Dam 
(Watch) 15/3/25–15/12/31 (Watch) 14/8/20–14/10/22 (Watch) 15/7/8–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/8/14–15/9/22 (Warning) 15/9/23–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/3/27–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/9/21–15/12/31 (Watch) 15/8/5–15/8/14 (Warning) 15/8/15–15/8/17 (Emergency) 15/8/18–15/12/31 

Table 4 and Figure 3 illustrate provincial areas that have adopted strict water rationing due to the 2014–2015 drought. Parts of Gangwon Province whose water access was via small-scale water works suffered the most from water shortage during the drought. In contrast to past records, drought preparedness and mitigation measures, such as emergency water supply and groundwater development, are now in place to significantly reduce the negative impacts of drought.
Table 4.

Counties with water supply restrictions during the 2014–2015 drought.

Months Counties No. of persons 
March 2015 Five areas, including Incheon City and Woongjin County 4,281 
June 2015 19 areas, including Chuncheon City and Samcheok City 7,281 
September 2015 Three areas, including Ongjin County and Ganghwa County 5,040 
December 2015 Four areas, including Jecheon City and Shinan County 15,402 
Months Counties No. of persons 
March 2015 Five areas, including Incheon City and Woongjin County 4,281 
June 2015 19 areas, including Chuncheon City and Samcheok City 7,281 
September 2015 Three areas, including Ongjin County and Ganghwa County 5,040 
December 2015 Four areas, including Jecheon City and Shinan County 15,402 
Fig. 3.

Water supply restriction areas as a result of the 2014–2015 drought.

Fig. 3.

Water supply restriction areas as a result of the 2014–2015 drought.

Table 5 shows the average storage rates of the major multi-purpose dams managed by the MLIT and K-Water (Korea Water Resources Corporation) during the drought. It shows that the majority of the storage rates dropped below 40%, which indicates severe hydrological drought conditions. The average volume of water in reservoirs in 2015 was 4,996 million m3. The storage rate of the reservoirs was 39.4%, which is just 65% of the historical annual average rate. Seomjin River Dam and Boryeong Dam stored 42 million m3 and 31 million m3, respectively in 2015, which accounted for only 19% and 45%, respectively, of the storage rate compared to an average year.

Table 5.

Reservoir storage rate during the 2014–2015 drought.

Reservoirs Stored volume (million m3Rate (%) [% compared to a normal year] 
Nationwide 4,996 39 [65] 
Han River Basin Soyang 1,275 44 [69] 
Chungjoo 1,135 41 [70] 
Hwengseung 27 31 [48] 
Nakdong River Basin Andong 422 34 [59] 
Imha 192 32 [65] 
Hapchoen 335 42 [72] 
Gunwei 15 31 [60] 
Geum River Basin Yongdam 266 33 [47] 
Daechung 577 39 [63] 
Seomjin River Basin Seomjin 42 9 [19] 
Juam 178 39 [58] 
Others Buan 26 51 [68] 
Boryeong 31 26 [45] 
Reservoirs Stored volume (million m3Rate (%) [% compared to a normal year] 
Nationwide 4,996 39 [65] 
Han River Basin Soyang 1,275 44 [69] 
Chungjoo 1,135 41 [70] 
Hwengseung 27 31 [48] 
Nakdong River Basin Andong 422 34 [59] 
Imha 192 32 [65] 
Hapchoen 335 42 [72] 
Gunwei 15 31 [60] 
Geum River Basin Yongdam 266 33 [47] 
Daechung 577 39 [63] 
Seomjin River Basin Seomjin 42 9 [19] 
Juam 178 39 [58] 
Others Buan 26 51 [68] 
Boryeong 31 26 [45] 

Agricultural impact

Although the 2014–2015 drought was categorized as a meteorological drought that was serious in terms of both severity and duration, it caused relatively little agricultural damage due to the efficient utilization of approximately 3,000 agricultural reservoirs under the auspices of the Korea Rural Community Corporation. A survey on the crop damage caused by the 2014–2015 drought shows that drought ruined 5,810 ha of agricultural area. This total includes 2,451 ha of rice paddies, which is 0.3% of Korea's 799,000 ha total rice paddy area. In the case of fields, 3,359 ha was affected, equaling 0.4% of the country's 748,000 ha. The water release of some multi-purpose dams was limited due to low water levels, but most reservoirs minimized potential drought damage by applying optimal operation rules.

Natural disaster management policy of Korea

National framework for risk management

Figure 4 illustrates the national framework of governance for Korea's risk management strategy. A total of six authorities share the role of risk management, with the National Committee for Safety Management placed in charge of overall disaster and safety management related policies. The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters are in charge of operations that oversee and manage large-scale disasters in the context of prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. The Central Accident Response Headquarters is headed by the ministers from the MOE, MAFRA, and MLIT. The common role for all of these ministries is to form an early warning system for disaster risk reduction and to provide relevant technical assistance should disaster strike. Led by the heads of each region, the Regional Disaster Prevention and Countermeasure Headquarters administer and take the required measures for disaster prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery for all corresponding areas.
Fig. 4.

National risk management governance of Korea (Multiple Ministries of Korea, 2015).

Fig. 4.

National risk management governance of Korea (Multiple Ministries of Korea, 2015).

National plan for drought management

The national drought management policy is set and revised every 5 years based on the Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety. It outlines Korea's national safety management plan in the case of natural disasters, including floods, droughts, and earthquakes. The National Safety Management Framework (Ministry of Public Safety and Security, 2015) outlines national drought management strategies as shown in Figure 5 and Table 6.
Table 6.

Drought management policies of the ministries based on Korea's National Safety Management Framework.

Step MPSS MAFRA MOE MLIT 
Prevention 
  • - Establish integrated drought management policy

  • - Support establishment of local government's long-term plan

 
  • - Agricultural water planning

  • - Set up medium and long-term plan for agricultural drought management

  • - Promote water conservation policies

  • - Monitor agricultural water status

 
  • - Promote water quality conservation policies

  • - Prevent water contamination during shortage in rainfalls

  • - Monitor water quality

 
  • - Manage multi-purpose dams and develop underground water resources

  • - Secure additional water resources

  • - Expand bulk water supply system and network

  • - Monitor water resource system

 
Preparedness 
  • - Raise awareness of drought preparedness

  • - Collect rain water

  • - Support research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
  • - Initiate research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
  • - Initiate research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
  • - Initiate research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
Response 
  • - Lead national drought management governance

  • - Support policies to limit water supply at each stage

  • - Encourage emergency water resources development

 
  • - Take measures to counter drought depending on its severity

 
  • - Set concrete risk management structure

  • - Limit water supply at each stage

  • - Secure/supply emergency water resources

  • - Undertake water conservation campaigns

 
  • - Set concrete risk management structure

  • - Limit water supply at each stage

  • - Secure/develop emergency water resources

  • - Undertake water conservation campaigns

 
Recovery 
  • - Provide financial support for restoration

  • - Provide financial support to purchase equipment

  • - Assist daily management activities

 
  • - Provide financial support to cover oil and electricity costs

  • - Provide financial support to purchase equipment

  • - Provide financial support to install tube walls

 
  • - Provide emergency water resources management plan

  • - Reinforce water quality management

 
  • - Continue water resources development

 
Step MPSS MAFRA MOE MLIT 
Prevention 
  • - Establish integrated drought management policy

  • - Support establishment of local government's long-term plan

 
  • - Agricultural water planning

  • - Set up medium and long-term plan for agricultural drought management

  • - Promote water conservation policies

  • - Monitor agricultural water status

 
  • - Promote water quality conservation policies

  • - Prevent water contamination during shortage in rainfalls

  • - Monitor water quality

 
  • - Manage multi-purpose dams and develop underground water resources

  • - Secure additional water resources

  • - Expand bulk water supply system and network

  • - Monitor water resource system

 
Preparedness 
  • - Raise awareness of drought preparedness

  • - Collect rain water

  • - Support research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
  • - Initiate research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
  • - Initiate research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
  • - Initiate research and development

  • - Manage region where drought is forecasted

 
Response 
  • - Lead national drought management governance

  • - Support policies to limit water supply at each stage

  • - Encourage emergency water resources development

 
  • - Take measures to counter drought depending on its severity

 
  • - Set concrete risk management structure

  • - Limit water supply at each stage

  • - Secure/supply emergency water resources

  • - Undertake water conservation campaigns

 
  • - Set concrete risk management structure

  • - Limit water supply at each stage

  • - Secure/develop emergency water resources

  • - Undertake water conservation campaigns

 
Recovery 
  • - Provide financial support for restoration

  • - Provide financial support to purchase equipment

  • - Assist daily management activities

 
  • - Provide financial support to cover oil and electricity costs

  • - Provide financial support to purchase equipment

  • - Provide financial support to install tube walls

 
  • - Provide emergency water resources management plan

  • - Reinforce water quality management

 
  • - Continue water resources development

 
Fig. 5.

The four stages of Korea's National Drought Management Framework.

Fig. 5.

The four stages of Korea's National Drought Management Framework.

Drought management is composed of four steps: prevention (in normal circumstances), preparedness (when drought risk is expected), response (when drought has caused damage), and recovery (when drought is over). Relevant ministries participate in each step. The third step – response – is regarded as the most important, as it involves response to the drought risk at hand. Each ministry has its own response steps ranging from four to six stages depending on how the drought progresses.

Government responses and activities during the 2014–2015 drought

While national systems have not been established in South Korea for damage compensation or for casualty insurance due to droughts, the central government does currently provide support to local governments, which in turn address drought through special tax allocations and a reserve fund. These expenses are used to propel projects such as the construction of local waterworks in vulnerable areas, reservoir dredging, securing agricultural water in preparation for droughts, and expanding the supply of water-saving equipment. To minimize the agricultural damage during the 2014–2015 drought period, plans were established through the Four Major River Restoration Project to redirect fresh river water to agricultural reservoirs in advance of low water levels via multi-functional weirs. The project focused on filling more than 300 reservoirs that were expected to have insufficient volumes of water for agricultural use. Furthermore, financial support was provided to each local government to resolve the shortage of surface water by developing wells for pumping groundwater.

Various alternatives were also discussed to resolve municipal and industrial water supply shortages. For instance, purchasing or repurchasing vested water rights is now forbidden in South Korea during a drought. The MLIT and local governments also organized financial support for water use restriction in 2015, which encouraged municipal and industrial water conservation and attempted to prevent the wasting of emergency and temporary reservoir water. The monetary compensation of 1,240 Korean won per ton of water saved compared to the same period during the previous year was three times as high as the regional municipal water price (413 Korean won per ton). The financial support provided for 3 months (October to December of 2015) to the eight counties in the Chungcheong Province, which was the most severely affected by the 2015 drought, amounted to approximately 3.41 × 109 Korean won.

A task force team (TFT) responsible for the 2014–2015 drought was organized under the management of the MPSS and consisted of the following five departments: The MPSS, MLIT, MAFRA, MOE, and the KMA. The TFT conducted drought forecasting and warning through KMA's drought forecasting system. The MLIT and K-Water determined restriction of municipal and industrial water use and in-stream flow from multi-purpose dams. Adjustments of the agricultural water supply from the agricultural reservoir were determined by MAFRA. The MOE managed the drought response of the local waterworks and low water supply areas concerning residential use.

The cooperation between the multiple ministries during the drought resulted in a total saving of 2.4 × 109 m3 of water through: (1) the restriction of in-stream flow and agricultural water by multi-purpose dams; (2) the joint operation of hydroelectric dams; and (3) self-adjustments by residents in the drought-affected areas. This total water saving thereby prepared South Korea for the drought extending into 2016.

Establishment of the integrated drought risk management framework and the drought preparedness study for future extreme drought risk

Drought risk management framework

Drought should not be regarded as a mere weather phenomenon but as a natural disaster that can negatively affect various sectors, including climate, agriculture, environment, and water resources. Due to this widespread impact, addressing drought risk requires an integrated approach. A critical component of the approach is in raising awareness about drought disaster. Losses due to drought are often repeated because drought attracts only short-term attention during its presence and leads to a lack of countermeasures of a long-term perspective. Another way to improve drought risk management is to bolster entities in the national and local governments that specialize in drought management. The National Drought Management Framework calls for close coordination and cooperation among water-related government ministries, as is presented in Figure 6.
Fig. 6.

Drought-related duties and responsibilities of the Korean government ministries.

Fig. 6.

Drought-related duties and responsibilities of the Korean government ministries.

The National Disaster Management Institute has established a disaster alert system for instances of flood and drought in Korea. This system, illustrated in Table 7, is composed of four alert levels: attention (blue), watch (yellow), warning (orange), and emergency (red). Conditions must be met for each level before releasing the alert and vital measures must then be taken on each level. The MPSS is in charge of capturing the potential signs of drought risk and releasing the warning alerts. This ministry coordinates in advance with the line ministries involved in water resource management (KMA, MAFRA, MOE, and MLIT) in the case of an ‘emergency (red)’ alert stage to address the disaster in a holistic manner.

Table 7.

National drought risk alert levels for response (Multiple Ministries of Korea, 2015).

 
 

Multidisciplinary and multi-ministry research and development for drought preparedness

Understanding and addressing drought requires an interdisciplinary perspective because it is pertinent to many sectors, including water, climate, agriculture, and disaster prevention. Thus, drought research should be conducted via cooperation among experts from related fields. Current ongoing research includes finding ways to efficiently manage drought via support from interested line ministries, including the MPSS, MLIT, MAFRA, MOE, and the KMA.

In order to improve preparedness for future megadrought events, the TFT dedicated to drought is under the management of the National Committee on Water Resources Management. As shown in Table 8, this committee is now in the course of discussing 14 research areas under the following three categories: Drought Watch & Forecasting; Drought Impact Assessment & Drought Management; and Preemptive Drought Response. The 14 research areas will require teamwork amongst the aforementioned five government entities and aims to strengthen the comprehensive National Drought Management System. The National Drought Management Policy developed in accordance with the research findings will help establish a more systemized framework for national drought response.

Table 8.

Research and development conducted by the line ministries involved with drought preparedness (Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT), 2016).

Drought Watch & Forecast 1.1. Improve accuracy of meteorological drought monitoring technologies Develop advanced technologies for producing drought information KMA 
1.2. Improve accuracy of drought forecasting technologies 
1.3. Develop long-term drought forecasting technologies reflecting climate change 
1.4. Develop technologies for agricultural drought monitoring and forecasting Develop ICT-based technologies for integrated management of agricultural drought MAFRA 
1.5. Develop enhanced technologies for hydrological forecasts using weather forecast information 
1.6. Develop monitoring technologies for drought-prone local water resources 
Drought Impact Assessment & Drought Management 2.1. Develop technologies to allow pre-adaptation to and optimal management of agricultural drought Develop technologies to install drought early warning and response systems MPSS 
2.2. Establish a response and management system for extreme drought 
2.3. Establish a drought forecasting and warning system Develop technologies for long-term hydrological information forecasting and enhanced water supply systems MLIT 
2.4. Develop technologies to assess hydrological drought impact 
Preemptive Drought Response 3.1. Develop technologies to improve water efficiency in agricultural water use 
3.2. Develop technologies for an advanced water supply system in response to drought Develop technologies to monitor local water resource availability and secure additional water resources MOE 
3.3. Construct a portable desalination plant 
3.4. Establish multi-purpose underground water plants 
Drought Watch & Forecast 1.1. Improve accuracy of meteorological drought monitoring technologies Develop advanced technologies for producing drought information KMA 
1.2. Improve accuracy of drought forecasting technologies 
1.3. Develop long-term drought forecasting technologies reflecting climate change 
1.4. Develop technologies for agricultural drought monitoring and forecasting Develop ICT-based technologies for integrated management of agricultural drought MAFRA 
1.5. Develop enhanced technologies for hydrological forecasts using weather forecast information 
1.6. Develop monitoring technologies for drought-prone local water resources 
Drought Impact Assessment & Drought Management 2.1. Develop technologies to allow pre-adaptation to and optimal management of agricultural drought Develop technologies to install drought early warning and response systems MPSS 
2.2. Establish a response and management system for extreme drought 
2.3. Establish a drought forecasting and warning system Develop technologies for long-term hydrological information forecasting and enhanced water supply systems MLIT 
2.4. Develop technologies to assess hydrological drought impact 
Preemptive Drought Response 3.1. Develop technologies to improve water efficiency in agricultural water use 
3.2. Develop technologies for an advanced water supply system in response to drought Develop technologies to monitor local water resource availability and secure additional water resources MOE 
3.3. Construct a portable desalination plant 
3.4. Establish multi-purpose underground water plants 

Governance of the drought management framework

Cooperation across different water sectors is necessary to efficiently respond to and minimize damage caused by multiyear droughts. Thus, a drought governance structure is proposed based on lessons from the 2014–2015 drought. The purpose of this drought governance structure is to ensure cooperation among relevant line ministries on themes including drought watch and forecast, drought impact assessment, and preemptive drought response. A mere understanding of the natural event will not be adequate in properly addressing the topic of drought disaster.

Figure 7 shows the governance structure of the Drought Management Framework for Korea, which involves multi-ministry and water related agencies. The KMA, MAFRA, and MLIT are in charge of meteorological, agricultural, and hydrological drought, respectively, and all collaborate to produce comprehensive drought information and allow integrated drought monitoring and prediction. The MOE is in charge of developing a monitoring scheme for environmental impacts of drought. The MPSS is in charge of developing a drought early warning system, and lastly, the MAFRA focuses on coping strategies for agricultural drought.
Fig. 7.

The Multi-Ministry Drought Management Framework of Korea applied in response to extreme drought conditions.

Fig. 7.

The Multi-Ministry Drought Management Framework of Korea applied in response to extreme drought conditions.

More specifically, the MAFRA aims to renew the agricultural water supply system to ensure that the agricultural sector is capable of making early responses to drought. The MOE is establishing a seawater desalination system and groundwater dams as part of a solution to secure additional emergency water resources during times of drought. Lastly, the MLIT strengthens the capacity of the domestic and industrial water supply systems used during a drought period. This division of roles and responsibilities for drought management will allow an integrated drought management framework to function smoothly. This will not only maximize the Korean government's ability to respond to droughts at a national level, but is also expected to minimize the economic, social, and environmental impacts of droughts that have increased significantly nationwide.

Conclusions

Drought, like flooding, begins as part of an abnormal weather cycle, but can develop into a natural disaster depending on its duration and the scale of its negative socioeconomic effects. To establish a more precise drought management framework, Korea must establish a link between a real-time drought monitoring and prediction scheme and a drought impact assessment system.

Too much emphasis is often placed on improving the accuracy of drought monitoring and forecasting systems from an academic standpoint. This emphasis often leaves little support for the development and/or refinement of national drought management policy. It is important to strike a balance between integrating academic research findings and setting national drought management policies and measures. At the same time, academic research is not adequately reflected in government policies on drought management. This is because the majority of the studies conducted on drought are focused on a scientific-technological approach, while there is a clear need for studies related to policy measures. Such measures include establishing countermeasures to drought, establishing drought policies, and providing virtual drought response training and exercises.

Drought management measures put in place by the government require an appropriately balanced distribution of tasks between the local and central governments. Since the majority of the countermeasures to drought have thus far been established by the central government, the central government and academic research institutes must both provide support in tailoring drought management measures for administration by the local governments. Such measures should reflect water resource management policies in concert with the stance of local governments on water resources to achieve progress in the future.

From monitoring to response and recovery, drought affects human lives in myriad ways through environmental, social, and economic impacts. Thus, mechanisms to facilitate cooperation among relevant line ministries, integrate research findings from related academic fields, and administrate government policies must be strategically combined to introduce and embed systematic and effective national drought management policy in the country. Korea's drought from 2014–2015 was by far the worst incidence of drought in the past 50 years. The government's early response, appropriate drought management policy, and well-defined risk management manual helped minimize adverse drought impacts. For successful mitigation of drought in the future, it is important to secure funding for continued research and make further improvements to the drought management system.

Acknowledgements

We would like to show our gratitude to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation for the strong support of this work. This work was partially supported by the Korea Meteorological Administration Research and Development Program under Grant KMIPA 2015–2070, and by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2013R1A1A2057517).

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