Legal Battle over Tap Water ‘Virus’

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Legal Battle over Tap Water ‘Virus’

"The scholar's conscience should be judged." (Seoul City Administration)

"He should be seriously punished." (Ministry of Environment)

These are comments made about Kim Sang-jong, a professor in the Department of Life Sciences at Seoul National University who presented a report claiming that he found viral meningitis in the tap water near Kwanak district, Nonhyon Dong and Chamshil in Seoul.

Most public workers in charge of Seoul’s drinking water seem to be heaving sighs of relief at the legal action being taken against the professor by the Seoul City Administration. They have charged Kim with circulating a falsehood and defamation. The city authorities insist that "we are being accused unfairly because Professor Kim has fostered a 'virus scare' among people, using an investigation method which has not yet received international certification. In fact there is nothing wrong with the tap water." They also added that Professor Kim had distorted the truth in presenting the report and that he had not even given any kind of background information other than that he checked for the virus every month.

Professor Kim on the other hand, is saying that the whole situation is absurd. He asserts that if it is still impossible for his thesis to be taken seriously even though it was written with great effort, passed through five months of stringent judging, was published in the May issue of a prominent international journal of microbiology and reported to the Microbiological Society of Korea, then it is because of the 'obliviousness of city administration workers'.

The Professor claimed that, "the virus was found every month when the water-testing method used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was carried out along with the 'atom analysing law'."

He continued, "I will prove that my thesis is true in court."

The lack of confidence in the quality of Seoul city's tap water has now reached a serious stage. It was clearly shown in the results of a 1998 survey, carried out by Gallup Korea, that only 1.4 percent of Seoul citizens drink water straight from the tap. Whenever scholars have asserted that they have ‘found viruses’ or 'environmental hormones' the government has done nothing but say that the inspection methods are not reliable.

The Seoul city administration, which is responsible for the health of 10,000,000 citizens has not even provided any reassurances by setting up its own investigation team but has instead continued to sue scholars whose research results are not favorable. Shouldn’t they attempt to allay the fears of citizens first, by performing some detailed inspections and dealing with even the smallest problem detected?

The government should put aside its grudges and concentrate on confirming whether or not Professor Kim’s claims are valid through scientific analysis.

Professor Kim also needs to confidently put forward the evidence revealed in his report rather than concentrating on judicial investigations.

by Yang Yung-yu

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