Government Report Continues to Target Yongsan Garrison As Source Ground Water Pollution

What would be an interesting piece of information is what is the pollution to the ground water in other areas of Seoul around Yongsan Garrison?  I find it hard to believe that Yongsan is the only place in Seoul with polluted ground water:

Yongsan Garrison

A contaminant detected in groundwater beneath a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in Seoul was above the permissible level, a government report showed Tuesday.

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul, has long been suspected as the source of oil that has contaminated the nearby water and land.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting a purification project since 2001, but petroleum-based contaminants above the standard level have continued to be detected in water near the base.

According to a joint probe conducted by the environment ministry and the USFK in May 2015, 2.440 milligrams per liter of benzene was found at an observation well at the base, which is 162 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter.

Among 14 monitoring wells of 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter, four had benzene levels some 20 to 162 times higher than the standard, the report showed. A total of seven wells showed above standard levels of benzenes.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but this pollution issue has long been one that South Korean leftists have used to stoke anti-US sentiment and the Korean government uses to get additional money out of USFK for clean up expenses which according to the SOFA they don’t have to pay.

We will see how this all plays out just like when the camps in Area 1 closed out back in 2004.

Korean Activist Group Sues Chinese Government Over Yellow Dust Air Pollution

The yellow dust this year in South Korea is as bad as I can remember it ever being and it seems Korean citizens are beginning to take action to do something about it:

Mask-wearing protestors demand the Korean government to come up with measures to reduce air pollution in a rally held in central Seoul on April 2. (Yonhap)

Many believe that while South Korea has had its own air problem, the recent sharp deterioration is mainly due to China, the world’s biggest polluter.

This belief has led to the first civil lawsuit filed by South Korean citizens against the governments of both Korea and China.

Choi Yul, an environmental activist and president of the Korea Green Foundation, and attorney Ahn Kyung-jae filed the suit Wednesday with the Seoul Central District Court, seeking 3 million won ($2,650) each in compensation.

The data on how much of the airborne pollutants in Korea are from China is not seen as reliable.

The Comprehensive Plan on Fine Particulate Matter compiled by several government bodies put the figure at 30-50 percent.

Such figures are estimated using data from Baengnyeongdo, a remote western island.

However, a report from the Munhwa Ilbo uncovered that the decimal point on the published data data collected at Baengnyeongdo over the past two years had been put in the wrong place giving much lower readings than was the case. Officials say they used the correct data in their calculations, and had therefore not underestimated China’s influence,  but are coy about releasing the data.

A study leaked from the Ministry of Environment estimated that 86 percent of ultrafine dust particles in Seoul and its surrounding cities on March 21, when the entire country was choked with high dust concentrations, was of Chinese origin.

The ministry confirmed that figure, but has been reluctant to reveal more data on the China factor, claiming a significant portion of the pollutants originate here.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link, but the Seoul city government did recently release statistics that showed 55% of the air pollution in Seoul was coming from China.  The ROK can take measures to reduce pollution domestically, but ultimately it will not matter until they get the Chinese government to do something on their end.  Good luck with that.

China Causes Approximately 55% of Seoul’s Air Pollution

It has seemed to me that the yellow dust pollution from China has gotten worse every year and this study now confirms that it in fact has:

Seoul’s government is trying its best to counter the gunk in the city’s air.

But it admitted Thursday that sources of pollution from outside Korea, including fine particle pollution from China, have increased in the past few years.

“According to our research conducted in 2011 and 2016, Seoul’s contribution to pollution grew from 21 percent in 2011 to 22 percent in 2016,” said Hwang Bo-yeon, head of the Climate and Environment Headquarters of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. “But the contribution to air pollution by international factors, including fine dust from China, grew from 49 percent to 55 percent in the same period.

“The city will do all it can, including increasing city-to-city meetings with Beijing to address the problem together.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Pollutants Continued to Be Found at Subway Station Near Yongsan Garrison

This issue of pollutants found at a Seoul subway station has been going on for years and it is amazing that no one has yet to figure out where it is coming from:

The Seoul city government said Monday that contaminants detected in underground water tables near a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in the capital city were 500 times higher than normal standards.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said an average of 0.532 milligrams per liter of benzene was found around Noksapyeong Station, located near the U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul in 2016. The base has long been suspected as the source of oil leaks that have polluted both water and land.

The figure went as high as 8.811 milligrams per liter, which is some 587 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter, it said.

The total amount of petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) found near Camp Kim, within Yongsan Garrison, was 20.4 milligrams per liter on average and reached up to 768.7, which is some 512 times higher than the standard of 1.5 milligrams per liter, according to the city government.

Municipal authorities have been conducting a water table purification project since 2003, but petroleum-based contaminants have still been detected in water near the U.S. base, it said.

“Considering that the base will be returned (to South Korea) at the end of 2017, we need to establish plans on how we will clean up the pollutants,” the city government said in a press release. “But at the moment, we are not even fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the pollution.” [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Farmer Arrested for Polluting Han River with Dead Pig Carcasses

I saw this story posted over at Reddit Korea about a Korean man caught illegally dumping pig carcasses into the Han River:

Apparently since October of last year, he would dispose of pigs he had used for jesa(제사) by dumping them into the Han River. In total he discarded nearly 100 pigs, amounting to 13 tons of illegal dumping in a public waterway!  [Reddit Korea]

Long time ROK Heads may remember the large protests that happened when a USFK mortician poured 20 gallons of formaldehyde down a drain that was diluted first of all by running water, then was processed through the Seoul waste treatment system, and finally through the Nanjido central metropolitan treatment plant along with 1.9 million gallons of other sewage and waste that was processed through those facilities that day.

Does anyone think this farmer will face mass protests and massive media demonization for what he did to pollute the river?

Further Reading:

GI Flashbacks: The 2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Incident

NASA Scientists Conduct Air Pollution Study Over Seoul

It should be interesting to see what comes out of this study from NASA where they are trying to determine how much of the pollution over Seoul is produced domestically compared to what blows in from China:

 The cockpit warning blared insistently as the plane spiraled downward to 500 feet above Seoul: “Too low, too low, terrain. Pull up, pull up, pull up.”

The pilots ignored the automated voice despite a nervous glance from a visiting reporter. Their mission was to take the DC-8 as low or as high as the NASA scientists working in the back required.

The flight was part of a six-week joint Korea-U.S. air-quality field study — known as KORUS-AQ — which officially kicked off on April 29. The timing coincided with the so-called yellow dust season that sees fine particulate matter swept into the air from neighboring China’s Gobi Desert.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the above link as well as more about Korea’s yellow dust problem at this link.

Air Pollution In South Korea Linked to Birth Defects

Here is something to think about for anyone thinking of living long term and raising a family in South Korea:

The number of South Korean babies with birth defects has increased significantly since the early 1990s, likely due to traffic-related air pollutants and endocrine disruptors, a study showed Monday.  The report, by Inha University’s Social and Preventive Medicine department, researched the national health insurance data of 403,250 infants aged 0-1 living in Korea’s seven metropolitan areas between 2009 and 2010. It found that 5.5 percent of all infants researched during the period had birth defects, an increase from the 3.3 percent of those born between 1993 and 1994.

Among all birth defects reported in the period of 2009-2010, hypospadias — a birth defect of the urethra where the urinary opening is not on the head of the male genital — had the highest increase rate of all birth defects from 1993-2010. The prevalence rate of the abnormality increased from 0.7 per 10,000 in 1993-1994 to 9.9 per 10,000 in 2009-2010. Meanwhile, the number of cases of cryptorchidism, the absence of one or both testes from the scrotum, also increased significantly from 2.6 per 10,000 to 29.1 per 10,000.  [Korea Herald]

You can read more at the link, but I always wondered what long term exposure to the yellow dust polluted with heavy metals from China would do to people over the long term.

Korean Companies Caught Dumping 3,000 Tons of Dangerous Chemicals Into the Han River

For those of us who were in Korea in 2000 when the Yongsan Water Dumping Incident happened this news about 25 companies dumping toxic chemicals in the Han River with hardly any outrage shows the entire hypocrisy of what happened back in 2000:

seoul image

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Friday it has caught 25 companies releasing wastewater polluted with hazardous chemicals into the Han River.

Most of the polluters are small and medium-sized enterprises operating factories to make textiles and metals, according to the municipality. But it refused to disclose their names.

The city government suspected the firms discharged nearly 3,000 tons of wastewater poisoned with potassium cyanide, chromium, lead, copper and phenol, all of which should be tightly regulated for its potential health risks.

The city found the illegal wastewater release after taking samples from 52 locations along the river during an inspection that began in April.

“The city received tips about their illegal activities,” a city inspection officer said. “We know there are businesses which have released hazardous chemicals into the river. This year, inspection has been stricter because of a drought. If factories upstream leak chemicals, it could cause serious damage to drinking water for Seoul residents.”

The Han River is a major source of drinking water in Seoul and its surrounding areas.

The inspector said the level of potassium cyanide found in water was 765 times higher than the permitted amount. The amount of chromium was 10 times more than the allowable limit. The level of lead, copper and phenol showed 4,098 times, 628 times and 222 times, respectively, higher than the regulated cap.  [The Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but this is just another example of why I do not recommend drinking tap water in Korea.  To put this pollution in perspective South Korea went into a anti-American hatefest over 20 gallons of formaldehyde that was diluted first by running water, then was processed through the Seoul waste treatment system, and finally through the Nanjido central metropolitan treatment plant along with 1.9 million gallons of other sewage and waste. Here we have 3,000 tons of potassium cyanide, chromium, lead, copper and phenol dumped in the Han River with little criticism.