Critical collusionThe tenants of Yeosu Industrial Complex in South Jeolla — including big names like LG Chem, Hanwha Chemical, SNNC and Daehan Cement — have all been charged for fabricating the results of fine dust emissions tests for years. They paid outside agencies to falsify documents saying that they had reduced emissions at their industrial sites for the last four years. Four agencies and 235 plants were found guilty in the latest investigation, but the finding may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Their scheme was also stunning. The pollutant measuring agencies exchanged text messages with the companies on what date best suited them for an examination and exactly what emission level it wanted to meet.
Over 13,000 reports had been made over the last four years through such plotting and falsification. The collusion had been so commonplace and customary that it has been committed without any sense of guilt. There was one case where “normal” stamping was given even when the emission was 173 times higher than the recommended level.
The infractions were also committed by big companies that had repeatedly emphasized their social responsibility. The companies issued apologies and closed down the problematic sites, but they have already lost public confidence. The dents in their corporate image will be worse than the fines it saved over the years.
The Ministry of Environment also must share the responsibility. Of 13,000 falsified reports, 8,800 were made by one person at an outsourced agency. The supervisory administration could easily have found something suspicious in the material. The Board of Audit and Inspection in February belatedly launched an investigation.
The government must make a thorough and comprehensive probe into pollution quality control. Many agencies can still be paid to fabricate emission reports.
Leaving the supervisory work to local governments worsened the collusive practices. The central government also must toughen oversight and punitive actions on illegal actions related to the environment.
People who live close to industrial sites have become worried about their health. Reliable institutions should be in charge of keeping watch on pollutants and safety commitments. Any company found to not be complying with the law must be punished strongly.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 18, Page 34