USFK Forced to Reveal Contamination of Yongsan Garrison

      April 19, 2017 13:17

      The water under the old U.S. Forces Korea headquarters in Yongsan, Seoul is heavily contaminated with benzene and other toxic substances, the U.S. and Korean governments have been forced to admit.

      The Environment Ministry on Tuesday finally published the findings of a joint Korea-U.S. inspection of the site, which still serves as the garrison for the 8th U.S. Army, in May 2015.

      The U.S. refused to disclose the findings, but civic group Lawyers for a Democratic Society filed a freedom of information suit later that year, and the Supreme Court finally found in its favor on Tuesday.

      The findings show that benzene alone is 162 times over the acceptable limit in groundwater at the site.

      Of 14 underground tube wells within a 200-m radius of the base, seven had higher-than-acceptable benzene. One well showed 2.44 mg of benzene per liter, a whopping 162.7 times over the acceptable level of 0.015 mg per liter. Three tube wells also had excessive levels of xylene, one more toluene than acceptable, and four more ethylbenzene than the limit.

      The ministry said it conducted additional inspections in 2016 and is working on a final report with the environment committee under the Status of Forces Agreement.

      "When the final report agreed by both parties is drafted, we will have official discussions with the U.S. about measure to take and whether to disclose the report or not," a ministry official said.

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