Korean trash clogs Philippines

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Korean trash clogs Philippines

The fate of the thousands of tons of trash that a Korean garbage disposal company illegally exported to the Philippines is currently hanging in the air.

The trash will head back to Korea and arrive as early as the end of this month, but there is no clear plan for who will dispose of it.

When the JoongAng Ilbo visited the company headquarters in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on Friday, a pile of unopened letters was scattered about the bottom of the entrance gate.

Around 500 tons of trash, covered in plastic vinyl wrap, could be seen. No employees were in sight.

“The company has been practically out of business since the end of last year,” a former employee said. “Everyone quit.”

The CEO of the company could not be reached by phone or email.

According to a job search website, the company, which was established in Pyeongtaek in 2013, and had around 2.07 billion won ($1.85 million) in sales in 2017.

The number was about eight times the company’s sales in its first year, according to the website.

The company shipped 5,100 tons of trash to Mindanao in the Philippines in July last year and an additional 1,200 tons to Tagoloan in October last year.

The consignee of the shipments in the Philippines declared them as plastic materials, not garbage, a statement proven false when authorities opened the containers. Illegal and hazardous waste materials were found, including intravenous lines, light bulbs and used batteries.

Upon this discovery, the Korean Ministry of Environment ordered the company in early December to take back the illegal trash it shipped.

When the company did not take action, the ministry stepped in to coordinate with the authorities in the Philippines and paid for the shipment fee of $47,000. The ministry plans to file an indemnity claim with the company.

“The 1,200 tons of trash from Mindanao will be coming back first, and they will be ready for shipment from Jan. 13,” the ministry said in its statement on Jan. 11. “We expect the shipments to arrive in Korea in about three to four weeks.”

That would be at the end of this month, at the earliest.

But the company has shown no sign that it will collect the trash.

“We cannot get in touch with the company,” an official of the Pyeongtaek city government told the JoongAng Ilbo. “The company has not shown any willingness to take responsibility and deal with the trash.”

The city government in December revoked the company’s business license for a month and fined it 5 million won. But the company appealed to an administrative committee of the Gyeonggi provincial government and the committee put the city government order on hold on Jan. 2.

“If the company takes no action to properly dispose of the trash, then the city government will have to take appropriate measures according to the Waste Control Act,” said an official from the Environment Ministry. “We will be speaking with the city government over some details next week. We don’t have a date yet on when the rest of the trash will be shipped back to Korea.”

BY KIM MIN-WOOK [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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