TED Case Studies

Korea Air Pollution Problems

     CASE NUMBER:        257
     CASE NAME:          Korea Air Pollution Problems


1.   The Issue

     During the first two decades of Korea's economic boom, there
was little attention paid to the damaging effects of rapid
industrialization on the environment.  It was not until the 1980's
that Korea began paying close attention to the environment, but the
problems have arisen so quickly, that the Korean government has not
been able to manage all of them.  One of the arising problems in
connection with rapid industrialization is acid rain. Studies
indicate that a large part of Asia is being threatened by acid
rain.  Factory smoke and automobile exhaust fumes contribute to the
sulfur-oxides contained in the precipitation of rain. Although
China is the largest producer of sulfur dioxide emissions in Asia
accounting for 20 million tons of SO2 emissions in 1987, South
Korea is also a major producer of SO2.

2.   Description

     In the early 1970's, the Korean government's ambitious five
year economic plan led to the rapid industrialization of heavy
industry and petrochemical industries.  The Ulsan region
(Southeastern Korea) is known for its heavy industrialization and
attracts major Korean companies.  According to the International
Trade Administration, approximately 200 companies are operating in
the Ulsan and Onsan Industrial zone area.  Rapid industrialization
in these areas have caused serious air pollution problems, a major
concern to the general public and government.  In recent years,
Seoul has been making initiatives toward improving the air quality
by strictly regulating sulfur oxide emissions from these

     Despite these efforts, South Korean companies lack the
expertise to install the required desulfurizers at their plants. 
South Korean firms are seeking assistance from leading Japanese
companies and are in the tentative stages of working toward
technological cooperation. Yet the main issue concerning South
Korea and Japan is the environmental pollution caused by China's
rapid economic growth crossing the boundaries into these two
countries.  The weather in China has an impact on Japan and South
Korea.  Yellow sand cause by industrial pollution in China is blown
from China to Seoul causing hazardous air pollution. Plants which
grow only in heavily polluted areas have appeared in Seoul and
nearby towns, indicating how serious environmental pollution is in

     Studies indicate this pollution is linked to the acid blown
from China.  Other studies also reveal acid rain is spreading from
Northeast Asia south to the Japanese island of Kyushu, especially
during the winter when currents of strong northwest winds blow
within the region.  Both South Korea and Japan welcome China's
economic growth but cannot be indifferent to the nations
environmental problems.  Air currents from China carry sulfur
oxide, the major cause of acid rain.  Acid rain in the Pacific
region is affecting cultural symbols, destroying vegetation,
polluting oceans and affecting wildlife.  Bilateral legislation
between Korea and Japan, Japan and China, and Korea and China have
been established.  Agreements between these countries are in
progress towards improving the environment of the Pacific Region.

     Environmental problems such as acid rain which extend beyond
national boundaries are becoming an increasingly common phenomena. 
Acid raid reduces visibility, pollutes lakes and streams,
destroying fish and other forms of life. Acid deposition results
from the chemical transformation and transport of sulfur dioxide
and nitrogen oxides. Experts agree the major strategy to the acid
rain problem is to reduce the emissions of sulfur and nitrogen
oxides.  Without these reductions, lakes and streams, groundwater,
soils and forests will continue to become acidified furthering
economic and aesthetic damage.

     Air pollution in rapidly industrializing China is believed to
be responsible for acid rain in East Asia.  Sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen and other acid rain causing emissions originate from the
burning of fossil fuel, such as coal and oil.  In earlier years it
was thought acid rain only occurred in North America and Europe,
however damage is spreading to such a degree that denial is no
longer an option for the Asian region. Widespread testing by the
Consumers' Union environmental unit reveals that acid rain is as
severe in the Asian region as in other developed countries. 
Although conclusive date has not been produced, there is growing
evidence that the cause is rapid industrialization and lower
environmental standards in China and South Korea.  Three of the
world's five most polluted cities -- Beijing, Seoul and Shanghai --
lie in the direction from which Japan's prevailing winds come from
November through April.  Japanese officials feel that China and
Korea are developing at such high speeds that pollutants associated
with acid rain are increasingly  having some effect on Japan.

     In the 1970-80's, Korea's experience with rapid
industrialization had damaging effects on the environment.  At this
time, Korea's five year economic plans emphasized heavy industry
whereby Korea became one of the world's leading shipbuilder and
steel producer.  However Korea's economic success also had damaging
effects on the environment.  It was not until the 1990's, when the
Korean government began to take action toward its environmental
problems caused by rapid industrialization.  The National Trade
Data Bank states that 26,000 businesses within Korea are registered
with the Ministry of Environment as air pollution emitting
facilities.  Polluters must comply with a 1990 law that covers 26
different kinds of gases and particulate.  As a result, in 1993
South Korea witnessed a drastic reduction in SO2 emission as the
use of low sulfur fuel increased. Despite standards set by the
Korean government, the level of air pollution in Korea still
exceeds that of advanced countries, especially in the winter due to
the mass consumption of fossil fuels.

     "Aggravating the air pollution problem is the
     skyrocketing number of motor vehicles, especially private
     passenger vehicles resulting from the significant rise in
     incomes. At the end of 1993, the number of automobiles on
     the roads was 6.27 million, up from just 40,000 in 1965. 
     In 1992, motor vehicles emitted 1.84 million tons of all
     pollution.  In Seoul, 60 percent of air pollutants come
     from motor vehicle exhaust emissions include more
     stringent emission standards and improve fuel

     The Department of Commerce indicates that the Korean market
for air pollution control equipment, which totaled $557 million in
1992, climbed to USD 910 million in 1993.  This market is expected
to grow at an average annual rate of 25 percent.  The projection
for 1993 is $1.4 billion.  These numbers indicate that South
Korea's road to environmental recovery is still in the initial
stages.  The restrictions on sulfur dioxide will be the source of
lucrative opportunities for US environmental equipment companies.

     South Korea is not the only area which is causing air quality
problems. The Japanese government and electric industry is trying
to scientifically prove that China is responsible for Northeast
Asia's acid precipitation and encourage the country to install
sulfur oxide-trapping equipment in its coal-burning stations and
industrial plants.  Joint initiatives between South Korea and
Japan toward improving air pollution are in progress.  However,
East Asia's acid rain problems are known to be worsening at a
serious pace, but lack of coordination among the countries in the
region has made it difficult to pinpoint its causes, with no
country acknowledging responsibility.

3.   Related Cases

     CHINCOAL case
     JAPANAIR case
     SULFUR case
     ECCO2 case
     CLEAN case
     VENEZ case
     ECCARBON case

     Keyword Clusters    
     (1): Product                  = MANY
     (2): Bio-geography            = TEMPerate
     (3): Environmental Problem    = Pollution Air [POLA]

4.   Draft Author: Beryl Kim


6.   Discourse and Status

     Japan and South Korea understand the effects of SO2 emissions
from China on the environment and bilateral efforts between the two
countries are in progress.  Tokyo and Beijing have agreed to
conclude a bilateral agreement on environmental cooperation
focusing on measures to check acid rain.  South Korea and China to
establish a joint fact-finding group on environmental pollution and

7.   Forum and Scope: KOREA and UNILATeral

8.   Decision Breadth: 3

     The accelerated development of the substantial fossil fuel
systems propelled by high economic and population growth rates have
resulted in increased atmospheric emissions of acidifying compounds
and greenhouse gases. Talks between these nations have centered on
these energy systems which require coal burning as fuel.  Increased
atmospheric emissions of acidifying compounds and greenhouse gases
are a major concern of environmentalists.  Thermoelectric power
plants, another major cause of acid rain have also been a topic of
discussion. China has adopted policies to let foreigners invest in
energy projects as conversion of thermoelectric power plants to
hydroelectric plants. Both China and Korea are subject to these
environmental concerns, while Korea has made progress in shifting
fuel sources, China is still in the initial stages.

     Other agreements between Korea and Japan calls for cooperation
on emissions  from vehicles and factories, homes and factories,
water pollution and pesticides, elimination of substances which
cause acid rain in Japan, the pollution of the Japan Sea and
protection of migratory birds. Exchanges of on policies and
technology, and the promotion of joint environmental research have
been established.

9.   Legal Standing: LAW

     Similar agreements have been signed between the United States
and Japan concerning environmental issues, specifically acid rain. 
Japan and South Korea also have made official legislation
concerning acid rain.  However, for both South Korea and Japan
accords between China are the first of its kind to explicitly refer
to acid rain.


9.   Geographic Locations

     a. Geographic Domain:         Asia
     b. Geographic Site:           East Asia
     c. Geographic Impact:         South Korea

10.  Sub-National Factors: NO

11.  Type of Habitat: TEMPerate


12.  Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard [REGSTD]

13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect

     The South Korean government is imposing new regulations on
industry, tightening the controls on air pollution and SO2
emissions, however the government has not been able to manage all
the problems arising from its rapid industrialization.

15.  Relation of Trade Measure to Resource Impact

     a. Directly Related:          No
     b. Indirectly Related:        Yes MANY
     c. Not Related:               No
     d. Process:              Yes  Pollution Air [POLA]

16.  Trade Product Identification: MANY

17.  Economic Data

17.  Degree of Competitive Impact: LOW

18.  Industry Sectors: MANY

19.  Exporter and Importer: MANY and MANY


20.  Environmental Problem Type: Pollution Air [POLA]

     The total projected SO2 emissions for the Asian countries in
year 2010 of 76 million tons exceeds the projected emissions of
North America and Eastern and Western Europe combined.  The
pollution of lakes and streams contaminates fish, birds, and other
forms of waterlife.  The polluted skies reduces visibility and
causes health hazards.

21.  Species Information

     Name:          MANY
     Type:          MANY
     Diversity:     ?

     Acid raid affects many species.  Pollutants cause ecological
damage to forests contaminates lakes, streams and rivers, destroys
fish and other animal wildlife.

22.  Impact and Effect:  High and REGULatory

23.  Urgency and Lifetime: LOW and 10-20 years

24.  Substitutes:  Conservation [CONSV]


25.  Culture: No

     Both Japan and South Korea are studying cultural artifacts  
affected by  acid rain.  In Japan, the Hinomisaki Shrine on the
coast of the Sea of Japan in Shimane Prefecture and the Great
Buddha in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, is being
studied as is  the national treasure South Gate near downtown
Seoul, Korea and the marble monuments on the grounds of
Kyongbokgung, overlooking downtown Seoul.

26.  Human Rights: No

27.  Trans-Boundary Issues: YES
     Winds, especially in the winter seasons carry SO2 emissions,
the major pollutant of acid rains from the industrializing regions
of China toward Japan and South Korea.  Researchers are finding
that a large percentage of these SO2 emissions are carried toward
Japan, 70 percent falls on the East China Sea and the remainder
over Kyushu (southern main island of Japan).  Acid precipitation
also affects the Sea of Japan/East Sea (body of water between Japan
and South Korea).    Accords between South Korea, Japan and China
are being sought to heed global environment protection through
borderless environment systems.

     Although agreement concerning the issue of acid rain had been
established between the three nations. The neighbors of China: 
Japan and South Korea continue to study trends in Chinese internal
political, economic, foreign, and security policies in order to
ensure peaceful engagement in the region.  Some in Japan fear that
an economically prosperous but authoritarian China could harbor
hegemonic ambitions in Asia while South Korea views the PRC as
crucial to its relationship with Pyongyang.

28.  Relevant Literature

Bureau of International Affairs, Inc. Annual Report From
Environmental Agency Urges Greater Attention to Global Issues,
International Environmental Reporter-CR, June 1993.

Bureau of International Affairs, Inc. Government Begins Enforcement
of New Law to Curb Nitrogen Oxide Emissions, International
Environmental Reporter-CR, December 1993.

Bureau of International Affairs, Inc., Large Parts of Asia
Threatened by Acid Rain, International Environmental Reporter-CR,
January 1995.

China's Foreign and Security Policies, The Washington Quarterly,
January 1994.

Environmental Information Network, Inc. Japan & South Korea Reach
Accord on Joint Pollution Control Efforts, Clean Air Network Online
Today , June 4, 1993.

Greenwire, Korea:  Plants Sprout, Feed Off Seoul's Pollution,
American Political Network, Inc., June 17, 1993.

Kyodo News Service Tokyo, Korea and its Neighbors, BBC Corporation,
June 10, 1993.

Radin, Charles, A.  Denial of Acid Rain Dissolving in Japan, The
Boston Globe, April 2, 1994.

USDOC, International Trade Administration, Korea-Pollution Control
Opportunities, National Trade Data Bank, April 1995.

Walsh, Michael, P.  Worldwide Development in Motor Vehicle
Pollution, International Environmental Reporter-CR, January 1988.


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