Management of Environment of Returned USFK Bases

Korea and the United States are pushing for the return of total 80 bases in accordance with Land Partnership Plan (LPP), Yongsan Relocation Plan (YRP), and irregular consultation on return. By the end of 2011, a total of 49 places were returned, while 31 additional bases and other major locations including Yongsan are yet to be returned. For those bases set to be returned, the environmental survey and hazards assessment are conducted by SOFA Environmental Subcommittee, and based on the results, negotiations are to ensue with the US military on the agent and level of the recovery work on the specific areas. 

As a result of the environmental survey on the 23 returned US military bases which was conducted between 2005 and 2006, soil & groundwater contamination was discovered on a considerable number of the bases, the return of which, while there exists a deadlock between Korea and the US with the disagreement over the agent and level of purification of the areas in question, triggering criticism at a National Assembly hearing on the unsatisfactory environment of the returned US military bases. Some 30 cases of environmental pollution have arisen since 2000 with US military bases granted and used. Notably, in 2011 nationwide attention was given to the suspected burial of defoliant at Camp Carroll located in Chilgok, Gyeongbuk. 

To solve this problem, the negotiations proceeded between the two countries on the agent and level of contamination treatment work, which came up with a scientific basis for the bilateral negotiation on treatment while allowing for flexible extension of the period of investigation and creating a procedure on negotiation. Concerning areas near the US military bases, a total of 30 places has been underwent with an environmental survey between 2008 and 2011 in accordance with Special Act on Support for Areas etc. Adjacent to Districts to the United States Armed Forces in Korea, and the Ministry of National Defense is conducting purification process of those returned bases. With 2012 legal amendment, the agent of the investigation, which used to be divided into local governments and the Ministry of Environment, found its unified authority with the Ministry of Environment.

The return of the military bases that came to a halt in the middle of 2011 investigation into the suspected defoliant burial is set to move forward to meet the planned relocation of the US military base to Pyeongtaek set for 2016, and in that regard, the basic preparation including budget and man power is to proceed for the implementation of an environmental investigation and hazards assessment.

Management of Contamination Concerned Areas such as Abandoned Metal Mines

As the environmental pollution at idle or abandoned metal mines loomed as a social issue, starting in 1992, environmental pollution investigation and mining damage prevention project had been carried out on soil & groundwater while an on-spot survey was completed by 2010 on 936 abandoned metal mines that were previously found And 1,153 more abandoned metal mines were discovered in 2010, an on-spot survey has been going on year by year since 2011. An effective implementation of the mining damage prevention project was ensured by conducting an on-spot contamination survey targeting abandoned coal & asbestos mines in order to discover as early as possible and purify contamination while preventing and minimizing the involved hazards. Regarding abandoned asbestos mines, in accordance with Medium-and-Long-Term Examination Plan (a planned formal examination of 13 abandoned coal mines and 17 mines potentially containing asbestos) established in January 2011, a formal examination of abandoned asbestos mines is underway in the order of priority year by year until 2017. A Medium-and-Long-Term Examination Plan is to be drawn up for a systematic investigation of abandoned metal and coal mines.

Medium-and-Long-Term Examination of Abandoned Asbestos Mines

※ (   ) refers to abandoned asbestos mines added through the examination.

Source: Ministry of Environment Collection of Policy Outcomes (2012)

Establishment of Measures for Topsoil Conservation

Topsoil refers to surface soil rich in organics and microbes in which contamination purification and circulation of substances take place, and is considered to have a value of about KRW 26.4 trillion with its circulation of substances and environmentally beneficial functions involving purification of pollutants, carbon storage, and air cooling. As a matter of fact, Korea needs a systematic management of the land as it is found to be  quite vulnerable to topsoil erosion, losing over 33 tons of topsoil per ha in over 30% of the entire country due to the topographical and climatic characteristics (mountainous terrains and heavily concentrated summertime precipitation). According to the OECD statistics, the country's risk in topsoil erosion is ranked 8th out of 28 member states (as of 2008). Therefore, a Comprehensive Plan on Topsoil Conservation was drawn up to create an efficient topsoil management system and maximize the use value of topsoil. First of all, an on-spot survey of topsoil erosion is to be conducted to precisely figure out topsoil erosion, create Topsoil Erosion Map based on its results, and establish a Korean model for topsoil erosion examination. Going one step further from surveying of the actual condition, a basis shall be established for preventing, restoring and managing erosions.

Enhanced Measures for Environmental Management Related to Agricultural Pesticides

In 2011, an on-spot survey was conducted of pesticides used in golf courses to prevent and monitor contamination of soil & groundwater in golf courses and neighboring areas and minimize the damage to downstream areas by preventing the use of deadly poisonous or highly toxic pesticides and ensuring compliance with requirements for safe use through an on-spot survey of pesticides used in golf courses and a test for residues. As a result of an on-spot survey for pesticidal residues performed on 421 golf courses around the country, 172 courses were found with 11 kinds of pesticides mainly remaining in grass and soil, while none of them was found with any pesticidal ingredients in their final outflowing water. As a result of the on-spot survey on used pesticides, the practice varied from pesticide-free golf courses to use of up to 86kg per ha. A plan will be prepared and implemented for managing the use of pesticides in golf courses with a view to reducing the use of pesticides, and a program is being planned for managing pesticides used in sports facilities with grass including soccer fields, baseball parks, and neighboring parks.

 Comparison of Pesticides Used in Golf Courses between 2010 and 2011

※ Total amount/amount of ingredients: amount specified for the container on sale / amount of valid pesticidal ingredients.

Source: Press release from the Ministry of Environment (October 18, 2012)

As the Regulation on Examining the Discharged Amounts of Pesticides in Golf Courses and Drinking Water Sources now lacks credibility to be reflected of the current situation due to long negligence, targets of the survey shall be selected again while the survey and analysis methods is to be improved. 

Last modified : 2013-10-29 20:44

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