Concern over relocation, chemical cleanup costsAs allegations of the clandestine disposal of harmful chemical materials by the U.S. in Korea are being watched with growing suspicion, concerns are being raised over the potential increasing environmental costs that Korea may have to bear in the planned relocation of U.S. military bases.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, 47 U.S. military bases have been returned to the Korean government since the two countries signed the Land Partnership Plan in 2002.
The LPP involves the relocation of U.S. bases to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, and is scheduled to be completed by 2016. The plan also makes it compulsory for those bases to go through studies of how much environmental contamination has occurred.
The studies conducted by the Ministry of Environment late last year showed most of the 47 bases returned since 2002 were contaminated with oil and heavy metal.
In Gyeonggi, all of the 12 returned bases - four in Uijeongbu, four in Paju, two in Dongducheon, one in Euiwang and one in the city of Hanam - were contaminated, the studies showed.
Eleven of the 12 bases recorded total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) over 2,000-miligrams per kilogram, a level that would ban those bases from being used even as a factory or parking lot.
Some sites within Camp Castle in Dongducheon even recorded levels of at least 19,284 milligrams per kilogram of TPH.
At Camp Hialeah in Busan, returned last year to Korea, nearly 10 percent of the base is contaminated with oil and heavy metal. Busan city authorities estimate that the city will have to spend 13 billion won ($11.9 million) to clean up the base.
As part of the relocation agreement, Korea would have to bear the cost of cleaning up the bases. And, experts say the cleanup cost could be higher if the environmental contamination turns out to be even more serious than initially thought.
In March, the Ministry of National Defense estimated the cost of the relocation at 8.89 trillion won, up 3.3 trillion from the amount approved by the National Assembly in 2004.
Inflation was one reason, but the revised cost has led to speculation that the cost could be even more.
The U.S. bases that have already been returned occurred without environmental contamination studies and it remains unknown how much it will cost to clean them up.
A total of 85 U.S. bases were returned between 1990 and 2003, including Camp Mercer, which was returned in 1993 and which is one of the three U.S. bases that are claimed to be dumping sites of toxic chemicals.
Lee Jin-yong, a professor at Kangwon University who led environmental contamination studies in 2007 of 23 military bases, said harmful materials such as dioxin were not even studied. “We couldn’t investigate every contamination material [due to time and financial limits],” he said.
In a 2007 report, Lee said most of the 23 bases were contaminated with TPH, zinc, lead and copper, and that the cleanup cost would be at least 600 billion won.
Meanwhile, concerns are also growing in the U.S. over the cost of relocating U.S. military bases in Korea. A U.S. report warned on Wednesday that Washington would have to bear billions of dollars more in relocating U.S. military bases in South Korea.
By Kim Su-jeong, Moon Gwang-lip [firstname.lastname@example.org]
한글 관련 기사 [YTN]
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한국 민간 개발업체가 평택 미군기지에 군인 가족용 숙소를 건립하고 있어 미국으로서는 개발비용은 줄일 수 있지만, 군인들에게 지급할 주택 수당은 늘어나야 하는 상황입니다.
회계감사국은 보고서에서 주일 미군의 기지 이전에 291억 달러가 소요될 것이란 점을 확인하면서도 일본 정부가 미군 기지에 대한 재정적 지원을 줄여가고 있는 점을 지적했습니다.
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