Almost 2/3 of environmental surveys since 2008 have revealed high pollution in water and soil.
Almost 2/3 of environmental surveys since 2008 have revealed high pollution in water and soil
A Seoul city worker puts contaminated groundwater from under the wall of Camp Kim in the Yongsan District of Seoul into a container for further sampling on Oct. 6. After oil contamination was discovered in 2006, the city has spent over 10 years purifying the groundwater, but contamination levels of petroleum hydrocarbons remain is 500 times higher than safety standards allow. (by Kim Tae-hyung, staff photographer)
Contamination sources have been detected in six out of ten environmental surveys on former US military bases returned to South Korea. Democratic Party lawmaker and National Assembly National Policy Committee member Park Chan-dae received a Ministry of Environment report on basic environmental studies for USFK-granted areas on Oct. 12 by way of the USFK base relocation support team in the Office for Government Policy Coordination. The report showed a total of 110 environment surveys on returned US bases between 2008 and 2017, with 66 of them confirming soil and/or underground water contamination.
The largest number of contamination sources were detected near Camp Market in Incheon’s Bupyeong district, where total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), xylene, copper, lead, zinc, and nickel were found in the ground and TPH and lead in underground water. TPH, toluene, xylene, and ethylbenzene were also detected in the ground near Camp Howes in Paju, Gyeonggi province, along with TPH in underground water.
In some cases, additional surveys uncovered new contamination sources. Studies at Camp Kyle in Uijeongbu and Camp Castle, Camp Casey, and Camp Hovey in Dongducheon showed new sources that had not been discovered during earlier relocation surveys. Many are now questioning whether the previous surveys were not properly conducted.
Over 210 billion won (US$185 million) has been spent to date on US base cleanup efforts, with estimates putting the total at around 1 trillion won (US$883 million) for remediation efforts for additional US bases that are returned.
“It’s time for us to talk about dividing up environmental remediation costs for returned US bases in a way that does not harm the South Korea-US alliance,” Park Chan-dae said.
“The different government agencies need to organize the different claims, establish a consensus, and demand indemnity rights from the US,” he added.
By Choi Hyun-june, staff reporter
Please direct questions or comments to