Widespread Oil Contamination on Yongsan 8th Garrison:
Who is Going to Take Responsibility? And How?
July 25-- Seoul City and USFK admitted that there is widespread contamination of the underground water and soil at the main U.S. military compound in Yongsan. The confirmation of the oil leakage at the Yongsan base has intensified growing suspicion that the U.S. military base may be the source of oil found in manholes and water tanks at the nearby Noksapyeong subway station.
An ongoing joint survey by the city, the Environment Ministry, and USFK revealed that underground water near the South Post, about 150 meters away from the subway station, has been contaminated. The joint inspection team has conducted 13 drillings on the base since May and discovered traces of oil at nine of the locations. South Post has housed the main tank for gas stations on the military base since 1974. It is likely that the oil that has flowed from the tank has permeated the soil over the years and resulted in contamination.
Green Korea United (GKU) called on Seoul City and the Environment Ministry to demand U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to conduct a full inspection of the oil-related facilities at U.S. military bases in Korea on July 26. A special report released by GKU describes 19 cases of oil leakages involving U.S. military bases since the early 1990s, with ten of them occurring last year. GKU has called on Seoul City and the Environment Ministry to demand that USFK promptly clean up operations at Yongsan base to contain the damage. It is impossible to fully restore the contaminated soil and water because it was so serious.
Who is going to take responsibility for the contaminated soil and water of Yongsan? And how?
USFK, meanwhile, denied reports that it is not swiftly carrying out restoring operations. The Status of Forces Agreement states that the U.S. military must respect Korean environmental laws. So, the oil leakage is a clear violation of Korean soil protection laws. The question remains, how can we ask USFK to take responsibility for the contaminated soil and water? That is the problem.
There is no method or regulation in the SOFA about USFK's responsibility when they cause an environmental accident. An example of adding insult to injury was the promotion of Mr. McFarland after it was discovered and admitted by the USFK that he had ordered a subordinate to pour 480 bottles of formaldehyde into the Han River.
What do we have to do? Should we start to revise the SOFA again?
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