Edited by Sushil Vachani and Jawed Usmani
Chapter 3: The evolution of environmental policies in South Korea in response to climate change
Throughout the period from 1960 to 1980, spurred by the enthusiastic implementation of its five-year plans for economic development, the South Korean economy grew rapidly and consistently with annual growth rates of over 7 per cent. Such economic development reached its climax as South Korea successfully hosted the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Olympics. Unfortunately, under this intensive economic development, there was little concern about exploitation of the environment. However, in the early 1990s, the society at large was hit hard by important environmental accidents, triggering a change in citizens' awareness of the environment and creating a social consensus on its importance and value. One of the representative incidents occurred in 1991 when phenol was released into the Nakdong River, one of the four main rivers of South Korea, thereby polluting drinking water. This accident was caused as phenol concentrate flowed into the intake station in the headbay of Taegu, contaminated tap water, and resulted in severe health damage including natural abortion. As a result, the chairman of the company that caused the accident resigned, and the then Minister and Vice-Minister of the Environment took responsibility and were replaced. The citizens of Taegu - the direct victims of this accident - started group protests, and soon afterwards a nationwide boycott of the company's products was initiated (Figure 3.1).
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