Seoul cracks down on DEF hoarders

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Seoul cracks down on DEF hoarders

As the government scrambles to get stable supplies of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to keep its diesel vehicles running, hoarders in Seoul have been caught trying to corner the market.  
 
Seoul officials said Tuesday they discovered four gas stations and DEF distributors that had illegally stockpiled or sold DEF, after monitoring 454 facilities in Seoul from Oct. 8 to 19.
 
DEF is a type of emissions control liquid that modern diesel-fueled vehicles such as motorcycles and cargo trucks cannot operate without.  
 
According to the city, a gas station in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, hoarded 1,500 liters of DEF, which was over 15 percent of its usual monthly sales volume, and another hoarded 1,300 liters, which was 450 percent of its average monthly sales.
 
Since last month, gas stations and DEF distributors were forbidden from stockpiling more than 10 percent above their monthly average DEF sales volume.  
 
In the same investigation, the city found a DEF distributor that bought 480 tons of DEF from China then sold it online without registering the fluid for a preliminary inspection, which is required for all imported DEF.
 
According to the Clean Air Conservation Act, all DEF needs to undergo inspection by the Ministry of Environment to make sure that the fluid is safe to use in vehicles and does not release harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.  
 
DEF reduces pollutants released by diesel-fueled vehicles such as nitrogen oxide.
 
The city discovered that the same company had falsely advertised its DEF on the web, saying it was selling “AdBlue” DEF, a European trademarked brand considered to be of high quality, even though it was not.  
 
Another DEF distributor was caught selling some 80 tons of expired DEF to about 80 gas stations around Seoul.  
Selling expired DEF is punishable by up to five years in jail or a 50 million won ($42,032) fine.  
 
“We will continue to crack down on illegal sales and storage of urea [DEF] until the shortage situation stabilizes,” said Choi Han-chul, head of the parapolice inspection team. Urea is the main ingredient of DEF.
 
“We hope citizens take interest in the matter and ask that they actively report any illegal activities regarding urea [DEF].”  
 
Since October, Korea has been grappling with a national DEF shortage after China tightened its exports of urea.
 
As the country scrambles to ink import deals with countries like Malaysia and Mexico, the government began rationing DEF early this month and has banned its resale to avoid panic buying.
 
Gas stations are authorized to sell DEF but drivers need to show identification and car registration numbers to purchase it.  
 

BY JANG JU-YOUNG, LEE JIAN [lee.jian@joongang.co.kr]
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