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More than 200 chemical companies cheated on emissions

Apr 18,2019
The Ministry of Environment said Wednesday that LG Chem, Hanwha Chemical and more than 200 companies in an industrial complex in Yeosu, South Jeolla, colluded with inspectors to fabricate environmental reports from their plants.

After an investigation of emissions inspection companies that started in March 2018, the Environment Ministry said four companies rigged results for dust, sulfur oxide and other emissions from plants operated by 235 companies in the complex in the country’s south.

It found that 13,096 results had been either tampered with or completely fabricated since 2015. The ministry added that the 4,253 results that were tampered were, on average, 33.6 percent lower than the actual results.

Under Korean regulations, businesses have to regularly report environmental emissions based on the size of their operation using an inspection company or by conducting inspections themselves.

LG Chem and Hanwha Chemical are two of the country’s largest petrochemical companies.

According to the ministry, LG Chem falsified emissions results 149 times from July 2016 to last November from its Yeosu petrochemical plant.

Hanwha Chemical changed emissions results 16 times from February 2015 to May 2016 at one of its plants and falsely recorded results from three plants 37 times from 2016 to 2017 without conducting inspections.

The ministry said it reported the violations by those two companies and eight others to the Suncheon branch of the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office for investigation on April 15 and also regional authorities for administrative measures. It added that it will send more cases against other companies to the prosecution when its investigation is complete.

LG Chem said Wednesday that it will shut down the plant in question in an apology statement.

“Our company is extremely regretful of the situation and will take available responsible measures,” said LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol. “While we immediately took measures as soon as the issue became known and emissions are currently being kept to legal and promised levels, we have decided to shut down the related facility to take responsibility.”

The details of the shutdown are currently being decided, according to an LG Chem spokesperson.

Shin added in the apology that LG Chem will work with a trusted agency to evaluate the health impact of emissions on local residents and that the company will provide compensation based on the results.

Hanwha Chemical also issued an apology on Wednesday, while adding that there was currently no evidence of the company engaging in collusion.

“Regarding the falsified records of environmental emissions, Hanwha Chemical feels responsibility and is deeply regretful,” said the company.

The Environment Ministry said the investigation results are just the “tip of the iceberg” in its announcement and vowed to come up with a way to curb emissions falsifications by May.

It said it will make inspections itself through drones, inspection vehicles and infrared inspection devices.

LG Chem shares ended 0.67 percent lower on Wednesday, while Hanwha Chemical remained unchanged.


BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]


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