Court orders release of data on USFK oil spills

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Court orders release of data on USFK oil spills

South Korea’s top court has ordered the government to disclose the results of a probe on pollution detected in ground water near a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in Seoul, court records showed Tuesday.

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan District, central Seoul, has been suspected as the source of oil that contaminated the nearby water table for years.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting a purification project since 2003, but petroleum-based contaminants above the standard level have continued to be detected from water near the U.S. base.

Upholding a lower court’s decision, the Supreme Court ordered the environment minister to release the result of its probe with the USFK.

The two sides agreed in June 2013 to carry out several on-the-spot probes. The first investigation was conducted in May 2015, but the authorities did not reveal the outcome to the public.

In August 2015, the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a group of activist attorneys, filed a petition with a local administrative court seeking disclosure of the information. The Seoul Administrative Court earlier said relevant information should be revealed for the people’s right to know.

“It’s hard to say the two countries’ ties will be hurt even if the information is disclosed,” the administrative court said, adding the concealment could lead to more distrust in the USFK and unnecessary diplomatic issues.

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