S Korean President Vows to Continue Support for Dam Collapse Victims

South Korean President Moon meets President Bounnhang

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, on a state visit to Laos, has vowed to make every effort to assist those affected by the catastrophic dam collapse in southern Laos last year.

A saddle dam of the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy hydropower project collapsed, in which a joint venture between SK Engineering & Construction and Korea Western Power is participating. The incident killed dozens of residents and displaced thousands of others.

“The South Korean government will continue to do its best to help the people in the affected areas return to their stable lives,” President Moon said at a meeting with the Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith.

Is response, PM Thongloun thanked the South Korean government and businesses for their support for the recovery and called for continued attention from South Korea on the matter.

He added that Laos hoped cooperation between the two countries in the hydropower sector would further develop, including one dam which is due to be completed this year.

Separately, President Moon also had a meeting with his Lao counterpart President Bounnhang Vorachith, where the issue of dam collapse was among topics discussed.

At that time, President Bounnhang noted that the South Korean government offered humanitarian aid and support for mid to long-term reconstruction work right after the incident.

In response, Moon expressed his gratitude for the Lao authorities maintaining trust in South Korean companies despite the case.

The South Korean government provided USD 2 million in humanitarian aid and 1,000 tons of rice right after the dam collapse and is also working on a project to restore the state’s integrated reconstruction through the Korea International Cooperation Agency, or KOICA.

In addition, the two countries agreed to strengthen development cooperation that contributes to the improvement of the quality of life and economic development of the Lao people, including the “comprehensive management project along the Mekong River” under the “EDCF Agreement” signed on September 5 to provide USD 500 million for the 2020-23 period.

In addition, the two sides agreed on the importance of utilizing the abundant water resources of Laos in bilateral cooperation to create co-prosperity in the region and agreed to push for necessary measures actively.

What’s discussed among leaders of two countries and remarks made by President Moon look promising, but it is still unclear what they can do in terms of resolving an ongoing dispute between the Lao government and SK Engineering & Construction.

The Lao government and the South Korean firm are currently making conflicting claims over the cause of the dam collapse.

The National Investigation Committee (NIC) of Laos announced its findings that the dam collapse was not a “force majeure” event, and it could have been prevented by adequate treatment measures.

At that time, SK Engineering immediately issued a statement and refuted the findings of the NIC, saying that the finding lack scientific evidence.

Meanwhile, SK Engineering said the company is and will be focusing on support to Laos regardless of what’s said or discussed during President Moon’s visit to Laos.


  1. The problem here is that the majority of organisations providing financial assistance are sending money to the Lao Central Government or the Attapeu Provincial government, rather than being proactive in directly assisting the affected people. Any recent visitor to the area will see that very little financial or other assistance is reaching the affected residents and it is a fair assumption (given the country’s political history) that the bulk of assistance funding is being misappropriated elsewhere. I visited the area with my wife a couple of months ago to assist with rebuilding a few houses and I was shocked to see so many demolished houses and temples still covered with flood debris and residents living in temporary shacks. One resident told us that they had sporadically been receiving 100,000 kip (about USD 11.50) per month “compensation” from the government. I only saw one international aid organisation present and there was official signage everywhere banning photography. It seems a shame that none of the international media groups who reported the tragedy to the wider world and initiated an international aid response have followed up on the issue.


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