Seoul Administration Court rules in favor of environmental
(Yeonhap News: February 4th, 2005) On February 4th, 2005, the Seoul
Administrative Court ruled in favor of environmental conservation in a legal
suit challenging the controversial Saemangeum Reclamation Project brought by
environmental groups and local people living around the Saemangeum tidal-flats.
The court ruled that no economic benefits can be expected from the
Saemangeum reclamation project because of the anticipated economic losses caused
by water pollution in the proposed reclamation reservoir, and by the destruction
of the tidal-flat ecosystem.
The court ruled therefore that it is necessary to cancel or change the
permit to reclaim the public water area, because the environmental, ecological
and economic damage to be expected from the project is huge and irreversible.
They listed the following reasons to support their ruling to change or cancel
the original permit: the possibility of using land reclaimed through the project
for agriculture is very low; it is anticipated that the water quality in the
reclamation reservoir will be too poor to use for agriculture; estimates of
economic benefits to be derived from converting the existing area to agriculture
are flawed; and massive damage will be caused to the tidal-flat ecosystem.
The court added that no decision has yet been made on the end-use of the
land to be reclaimed, but reiterated that it cannot be used for agriculture as
water in the reclamation reservoir created for that purpose will be too
The court did not rule against continuing work to reinforce the existing
sea-wall, but did rule against construction of any further sea-wall required
to close the remaining 2.7 Km stretch that remains open.
The massive and controversial reclamation project along the southwestern
coastline of North Jeolla Province has therefore yet again run into another
major hurdle due to this ruling.
Earlier, the court had tried to suggest a way forward by recommending
that further research be conducted before their final ruling was made. It also
recommended that the government should halt the project and set up a committee
of experts to review fully the potential environmental and economic consequences
of the reclamation. The court also suggested that parliament should legislate a
special law to help iron out such issues. Although, environmental groups and
local fishermen had welcomed these recommendations, the government and the
ruling Uri Party openly rejected them on January 28th.
As the court has now ruled in favor of environmental conservation, the
government will bring the case to the Seoul High Court.
(Translated by Ma Yong-Un [KFEM]; edited by Nial Moores [Birds Korea].)