Name : Jung, Seowon
Class : ESOL 94F
Now is the time that we should be concerned about the environment in S.Korea
Now is the time that Koreans should concern themselves about their environment. South Korea is a developed country. South Korean people have experienced war and the bitterness of life as a colony of Japan. However, many people have accomplished degrees in a variety of fields and South Korea has become a world-class producer of electric home appliances and computer technologies. However, on the other hand, because they have succeeded in their economic development efforts, Koreans are now fighting with environmental problems. There are three main reasons for this, indifferent government behavior, high speed industrialization and people’s lack of responsibility. If these are not dealt with the environment of South Korea will be significantly be damaged.
First because the government has focused on developing Korea’s economy, they have shown indifference to destroying the environment. The Korea government has not established laws enough about environmental problems and protecting nature. Actually, the government did not know what the results of impatient industrialization would be in the 1970’s because Korea was an underdeveloped country and Koreans had to fight with famine, starvation and poverty. Even though Koreans made some mistakes, I strongly believe the government is at fault for failing to educate Koreans. In addition, in order to develop the country, the government failed to strongly punish some companies for damaging or polluting the environment. For instance, some companies discharged waste-water into rivers and Koreans did not know the pollution was there. After that, in the 1978s, some green activists found out and prosecuted the companies for what they did, but the government only gave those companies a very light penalty. As a result, in spite of creating dirty air, land and water, government officials knew and looked on with folded arms and many owners of companies thought they would be fine no matter what they did, so they did it. Finally, because the government’s behavior was like this, many companies were not concerned bout environmental issues.
The second reason for Korea’s environmental problem is high-speed industrialization. Korean industrialization has been so successful since the 1960s that the shift from an agrarian society to a post-industrial one was accomplished in three decades. (Youngpyoung, 1997) “Miracle on the Han River is a catchphrase often used in South Korea and by scholars to describe the period of rapid economic growth that took place in South Korea following the Korean War up until the Asian Financial Crisis. In particular, this phrase is often used to describe the growth of Seoul -through which the Han River flows – from a city virtually leveled by war to a major economic hub, and the growth of South Korea into one of the Four Asian Tigers.” (Wikipedia, 2007) To develop the country quickly, Koreans built a lot of factories in many places. Model examples are GM Daewoo, Samsung, LG and Hyundai. They have enormous factories and make a lot of jobs. Unfortunately, toxic smoke is emitted from their chimnies. Moreover, some companies discharge waste-water, oil and other factory-wastes without treating these wastes at a disposal plant. In this situation, we have created too many problems for the environment. Basically, Korea is very small and has high density of population. In the past, Korea was based on agriculture, but expanding companies needed many factories. Therefore, the government permitted companies to build on farmland. They also cut down and cleared forests for farming, roads and new buildings. Korea had insufficient natural resources. Therefore, Koreans had to develop technologies and hunt for talented. Unfortunately, many rivers were getting more polluted gradually as Koreans were developing their technologies and businesses. Eventually, forgetting their duties and responsibilities, many companies failed to install air and water purifying systems due to financing problems and lack of government pressure.
A third reason for pollution is the average Korean citizen’s lack of responsibility in contributing to environmental problems. For example, approximately 15 years ago, many Koreans washed their own cars in front of their houses. When they washed the car, they used detergent. An even more serious problem was the motor oil streaming into the sewers from driveways and roads. Finally, the government has prohibited washing cars in residential areas. Now Koreans can only wash their cars in a specific area, which is a designated car wash. Moreover, in Korean neighborhoods trash was piled so high in the trash bin that it overflowed into the busy street, creating both an unsightly mess and a health hazard. In response, the government began to educate the public on separating and recycling garbage because of the average Korean’s insufficient awareness about protecting the environment through proper waste management.
Nowadays, many small towns are changing from rural to urban and many small town people are leaving the countryside. According to Dogeun (2007), “A countryside’s academic standard is below the level of a metropolis.”. People have also disappeared from the countryside because they moved to a metropolis for the future of their sons and daughters. In addition, many farmers cannot make money anymore by growing plants and they gave up their job. Basically, the lifestyle of Korean people was based on agriculture but we might need to import rice from other countries now. Farmers have more poverty than before, and eventually they sell their land. Koreans started to build factories where people do not live anymore. However, because of the land to construct factories, agricultural soil was disappeared. Instead of crops, we have been able to see the factories. Many factories and apartments were built on farmland and people and factories are creating a lot of garbage. These trends have resulted in many environment problems. As a result, many problems have been caused for the environment.
A lot of garbage was piled up in a specific place, called Nanji Island. There were no free spaces anymore and the government had to do something. As a result, the government closed down the Nanji Island and started separating garbage there. The government constructed an eco-park on a trash heaps in February 1993 and Nanji Island came back as an beautiful eco-park in May 2002. (Naver Encyclopedia, 2007) In comparison with other parks, Nanji eco-park uses natural energy that purifies itself and generates abundant methane gas from trash heaps and wind power from five enormous windmills. (Naver Encyclopedia, 2007). This is one of good example of dealing successfully with an environmental problem. Fortunately, Nanji Island was the only major landfill in Korea.
On the other hand, some natural treasures might be exterminated by industrialization. The tiger, Peregrine falcon, and Manchurian black bear are examples of animals that are being sacrificed to industrialization in Korea. Some kinds of native trees might be exterminated too. The Han river has turned black. Just a few kinds of fish live there now. Actually, it is difficult to find rivers where healthy fish populations live. Though a little too late the government has decided to take measures. However, Koreans are going to have to take much better care of the environment than they do now if they want to save these treasures. The reasons for the death of many species of wildlife are polluted water and air. Seoul’s smog is famous. Moreover, rivers and brooks were polluted by people who failed to take responsibility for environmental problems. Many factories discharged wasted water into the rivers, oceans and sky without purifiers. There is no question that humans have polluted nature and the habitat of many species of wildlife. We can still find many clean and beautiful rivers and valleys in Korea. However, when people go on a picnic by the river or in a valley in the mountains, they do not clean up their camping ground. Some wash their clothes with detergent in brooks or rivers. Thus, even though they are not factory owners these individuals ignore their responsibilities and duties related to environmental protection. However, basically most environmental problems come from human activities.
In conclusion, developing the country and protecting the environment are in inverse proportion to each other and humans have to choose one of them or find sustainable ways to do business that don’t destroy the environment. It will be most difficult to harmonize with nature, but the door is always open. For all these reasons, I think that the government has to establish stronger laws about protecting Korea’s environment. And first of all, we have to educate our sons and daughters to protect the environment and explain the reasons why nature is important for their future. Everyone has to stand behind their responsibilities.
BRIC, Biological research information center of Korea. 2003,
Dogeun, Jeon. Education of Countryside. 11 July 2007,
Naver Encyclopedia, Sky park.
Wikipedia, Miracle of the Han river. 29 Oct 2007.
Youngpyoung, Kim. The Korean Civil Service System. Indiana University on the web.
5 April 1997.