Those entrusted with treating waste are included among those who are taking responsibility for illegal dumping.
“In order to ensure the systematic preservation and utilization of the DMZ, it is more significant to restrict its use to the extent that ecological values may not be damaged, so minimizing ecological consequences of all projects in the DMZ area should be a top priority.”
Here are excerpts of an interview between NewsWorld and Deputy Minister Song Hyung-keun of the Natural Environment Policy Office at the Ministry of Environment, in which he spoke of these and other natural environment priorities.
A view of the Sudokwon landfill site’s Block 3-1 which is to expire by August 2025.
Question: Will you introduce major policies the Natural Environment Policy Office has implemented this year, and their execution outcomes?
Answer: Early this year, our Office implemented three key tasks: the expanding of public ecological services, “unwavering” waste management and the nurturing of green industries.
The ministry has restored damaged urban areas into ecological resting spaces to tackle pending public urban environment issues such as fine dust and heat waves. Cumulatively, 176 urban ecological resting places have been created so far, including 40 restored this year.
Facilities for the convenience of the handicapped at national parks have been expanded. Next year, we plan to launch a new project to restore the wood ecology axis and the water ecology axis in consideration of all ecological functions.
The Act on Waste Management was enacted with parliamentary approval in October to put an end to the illegal dumping of waste. The law is to be put into force next May.
Under the law, waste producers, and those entrusted with treating waste, are required to verify the legitimate treatment of waste for cross-surveillance to prevent illegal dumping. Those entrusted with treating waste are included among those who take responsibility for illegal dumping.
In emergency cases, vicarious administrative execution will be issued without an additional treatment order for a quick remedial step. Punishment for those who take responsibility over illegal dumping has been reinforced, including imposing financial penalties.
In September, the ministry came up with a plan to create jobs in the environment field. It took steps to connect the resolution of the pending recent hotly-debated environment issues such as waste and fine dust and water and the nurturing of the environment industry with job creation.
Specialized jobs essential for environmental management have been institutionalized like qualification guidelines on integrated environment permit consultants and the requiring of water, air, and other pollutant measurement and analytics firms to hire environment measurers & analyzers.
The ministry finance costs of verifying and commercializing to SMEs with innovative technologies while expanding technological and administrative support to their overseas market entry. The steps are designed to not only nurture the green industry, but also expand corporate job creation capabilities.
Q: Controversies have flared up over the continued undertaking of photovoltaic power projects as part of renewable energy programs. They are to blame for reckless nature damages. How do you tackle such green conflicts?
A: A shift into cleaner, safer renewal energies has become a global trend. In order to solve conflicts that occur in the course of the implementation of renewable energy projects, they should be pursued in consideration of eco-friendliness and residents’ public acceptance.
As to the installation of photovoltaic power facilities, locations with a focus on forests involving high probability of forest destruction, will be encouraged to be diversified to structures deemed to in higher public acceptance, and idle sites.
The ministry is seeking to overhaul business procedures so that eco-friendliness and public acceptance can be considered before power generation permissions are issued. The Environment Ministry (MOE) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) are working on the planning of renewable energy sites for power generation.
We’re proactively redoubling efforts to create a win-win situation in a shift into renewable energies and eco-friendliness, not value conflicts over green issues.
Q: What steps does your ministry take to reduce illegal dumping of waste? Are there ways of recycling waste or restricting the growth of waste, such as incineration plants and solid refuse fuel (SRF) power generation plants?
A: We’re working on maxing out the existing incineration plants’ capacity in a short-term step to stabilize treatment of waste.
The ministry plans to install public treatment facilities in each sphere as a social safety net to tackle illegally dumping of waste. We’re making all-out efforts to operate SRF facilities without interruption by strengthening their quality management, raising public awareness, and implementing support projects.
Essentially, an institutional overhaul is important to reduce waste amounts and spur recycling. The ministry plans to work out a comprehensive roadmap to minimize the use of disposable items and packing materials this year. We plan to seek revisions of ordinances this year to impose a ban on the use of color plastic bottles of water and beverage drinks so that they can be recycled at ease.
Q: Use of the Sudokwon landfill site’s Block 3-1 is under way following a quadrilateral agreement among the MOE and three provincial and municipal governments. As the use of the block is to expire by August 2025, the three province and cities are now discussing ways of finding an alternative site. Can you elaborate on the current stats and future plan?
A: As office and bureau heads’ meetings with three provincial and municipal governments took place on eight occasions so far this year, an agreement has been reached on the big picture for ways to designate an alternative landfill via a public contest and offering financial support to the upcoming dump site area.
But there are some differences in how to conduct the public contest on an alternative landfill, and the ministry continues to have meetings with the three provincial and municipal governments to iron out them.
Conforming to a quadrilateral agreement, reached in 2015 among the MOE and three provincial and municipal governments, the ministry plans to play an active part, including its participation in a process of designing an alternative landfill, administrative and financial support, and conflict coordination & arbitration.
An aerial view of a DMZ area on the western front line in Paju, Gyeonggi-do.
Q: The MOE is making strenuous efforts to preserve the demilitarized zone (DMZ), which is considered a depository of ecology. What desirable future do you see for the DMZ?
A: The DMZ is a global ecological depository in which nature has restored itself on its own from the ashes of the Korean War, and it is the last refuge for wild animals now in danger of extinction on the peninsula. Twenty-three percent of the nation’s whole faunal species and 38 percent of the species in danger of extinction reside in the DMZ area, which accounts for 1.6 percent of the whole size of South Korea.
Regardless of these ecological values, expectations and desire for the development of the DMZ area are mounting, however. Demand and pressure for development is expected to further rise down the road as inter-Korean relations make progress.
In order to ensure the systematic preservation and utilization of the DMZ, it is more significant to restrict its use to the extent that ecological values may not be damaged, so minimizing ecological consequences of all projects, to be implemented in the DMZ area should be a top priority. Principles and direction will be materialized based on national consensus and support.
In June, an area, north of the civilian controlled line and its adjacent district near the DMZ were designated as UNESCO biosphere reserves.
The designation of UNESCO biosphere reserves is designed to pursue the harmony between preservation of the ecology in each area and sustainable development. It takes on significance that the pursuing of the values of the DMZ area has been recognized globally.
I think that the desirable future of the DMZ lines with preserving the ecological and historically meaning of the DMZ area and wisely utilizing it for Korean peace and prosperity.