Backyard protestsThe Supreme Court has finally concluded that a lower court ruling that approved the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s plan to establish the city’s first crematorium in Wonji-dong, Seocho district, was legitimate. The six-year litigation process is now over and the building process can commence.
Ten residents of Seocho had filed a petition in 2001 to block the city governments’ schedule to build a memorial park that included a crematorium.
The government announced that the building process will now begin, based on the initial plan it made in 2003. If the facility is fully constructed, the crematorium will have 11 incinerators and a funeral parlor on 40.5 acres.
However, residents and civil organizations have pledged to block the crematorium. A civil group that is committed to preserving Cheonggye Mountain is in the vanguard of the movement. They claim they want to preserve nature. However, they are overlooking the fact that the nation’s mountains have been despoiled by graves. Their conduct seems to be a classic example of a nimby (not-in-my-back-yard) movement.
Every year, land equal to the size of Yeouido is used for graves and the total amount of land that has been used to accommodate graves in Korea is bigger than Seoul. To stop this waste, ashes should be scattered in the mountains or in the sea after cremation. To do this, cremation facilities are required.
Fortunately, the cremation rate exceeded 52.6 percent among all deaths last year. However, expanding the cremation capacity, by building more facilities, is being blocked by the nimby phenomenon. Crematoriums in Byeokjae, Goyang city and Jungwon, Seongnam city are already lined up but meanwhile funerals are behind schedule because of a lack of facilities.
Concerns about environmental pollution are understandable, but these can be solved with high-tech filters. There are examples of cremation facilities near residential areas in Japan and Europe. With artistic designs and parks attached, they have led to an improvement in the areas where they are located.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has to be transparent in its plans to have an environmentally friendly crematorium and to prevent pollution. It should also reward incentives to appease people who will be living near the facility.
The people must stop their physical protests and their nimby behavior. They should cooperate and discuss the benefits they and their area can gain.