Government ordered to pay for cleanup around U.S. base
Published : Sep 1, 2011 - 20:01
Updated : Sep 1, 2011 - 20:01
A Seoul court has ordered the South Korean government to compensate the Seoul city government for environmental damage caused by an oil leak from a U.S. military camp here, the city said Thursday.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down the ruling in favor of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which filed the damages suit asking the central government to pay 340 million won ($319,608) the city spent to purify polluted groundwater near Camp Kim in Yongsan District, central Seoul.

“The state is required to pay 340 million won in oil cleanup costs to the Seoul city,” the court said.

The court decision is the latest in several damages suits won by the city of Seoul, which suffered substantial environmental degradation due to oil leaks by the United States Forces Korea.

Since 2001, the city government has received 4.49 billion won in compensation for its spending on examining sources of pollution and purifying contaminated groundwater.

Due to a status of forces agreement signed between South Korea and the U.S., the country is responsible for compensating a third party who suffers damage caused by U.S. forces stationed here.

“We have carried out examinations to find pollution sources as well as purification work on groundwater in areas near Camp Kim since an oil leak was confirmed there in July 2006,” a Seoul city official said. “The 340 million won the city requested in the latest suit is to cover purification costs during 2008-10.”

The latest court order comes amid growing public discontent over environmental damage inflicted by U.S. forces stationed in the country.

A joint investigation by U.S. and Korean specialists is underway at Camp Carroll in Chilgok, a southeastern county, after allegations that drums of the toxic defoliant Agent Orange were buried there.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are based in South Korea under a mutual defense treaty signed during the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. 

(Yonhap News)