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Asbestos in Bukchang Elementary School

Feb 15, 2024

Despite the high safety record achieved by Bukchang Elementary School in Dangjin, Chungcheongnam Province, South Korea, work on removing asbestos from the school continued during the 2023 winter school vacation. On February 8, 2024, a spokesperson for the school announced that it had obtained an award for having the highest safety certification for an educational facility. Commenting on the good news, Principal Park Chang-ok promised that the school authorities: “will continue to do our best to maintain a safe school environment for our students.” See: 충남 당진 북창초등학교, 교육시설안전인증 최우수 인증 획득 [Bukchang Elementary School in Dangjin, Chungcheongnam Province obtained the highest certification for educational facility safety certification].

Municipal Action on Asbestos

Feb 8, 2024

On February 5, 2024, it was announced that the Council of the South Korean city of Busan was consulting with stakeholders on plans for an asbestos survey program to address the widespread presence of asbestos roofing, much of which is found on unlicensed buildings, in the municipality. There are 22,000 asbestos-roofed structures in Busan and the Ministry of Environment has designated 346 areas of concern in the city including: Gamcheon Culture Village and White Yeoul Village, popular tourist destinations. See: 부산 석면건물 실태조사부터 하자” 시의회, 市에 제안 [“Let's start with the survey of asbestos buildings in Busan” City Council, proposal to the city].

Asbestos Eradication Program: Update

Feb 6, 2024

On February 5-9, 2024, the Gyeongbuk Office of Education – in South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province – will mount a series of inspections at schools where asbestos eradication work is being carried out during the winter school holidays. The purpose of these inspections is to ensure that workers and members of the public are not exposed to asbestos during removal work on school buildings. Visits will be made to 8 out of 100 sites where removal work is ongoing. See: 경북교육, 꼼꼼한 석면 공사 현장 관리 실시 [Gyeongbuk Education, Meticulous Asbestos Construction Site Management].

Supporting Victims in Gwangju City

Jan 24, 2024

The sum of 1.8 billion won (US$1,350,335) has been allocated this year for asbestos relief benefits – to cover services such as medical and nursing care and funeral expenses – by the South Korea City of Gwangju for patients and bereaved families who have not received compensation for industrial injuries. In accordance with the Asbestos Damage Relief Act, Gwangju City has paid 2.66 billion won in asbestos relief benefits to 114 people over the past three years. It is anticipated that the 2024 allocation will cover payments to 50 claimants. See: 광주시, “석면피해 구제급여 신청하세요” [Gwangju City, “Apply for Asbestos Relief Benefits”].

Asbestos Eradication in Schools

Jan 16, 2024

On January 11, 2024, the Provincial Office of Education in Gyeonggi, South Korea announced that it would set up an inspection team to oversee progress and compliance with regulations during asbestos dismantling and removal work at schools during the winter vacation. The inspectors will monitor work at 191 schools: 72 elementary and 50 middle schools, 2 special and 67 high schools. When this phase of the removal program is completed, nearly 70% of the schools in the area will be asbestos-free. See: 경기도교육청, 겨울방학 기간 학교 석면 현장 점검 [Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, on-site inspection of asbestos in schools during winter vacation].

Asbestos Removal in Schools

Jan 5, 2024

On January 3, 2024, the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education announced that it was on track to eradicate the asbestos hazard in all its schools by the end of this year. This is two years ahead of the deadline set by the Korea’s Ministry of Education. The budget for asbestos removal and remediation work for the 2024 winter vacation set by the authorities in Daegu – a city in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea – is 26.3 million won (US$20,120); this is for work in 52 schools. See: 대구시교육청, 2025년까지 학교 석면 완전히 없앤다 [Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education to completely eliminate asbestos from schools by 2025].

Increased Asbestos Protections 2024

Dec 22, 2023

On December 19, 2923, South Korea’s Ministry of Environment (MoE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Social Welfare Joint Fund Association to collaborate on efforts “to improve the housing environment and protect the health of the vulnerable.” Under this project, work will proceed in 2024 on the eradication of asbestos from buildings used by children and vulnerable people. A MoE spokesperson also announced plans to revise the Enforcement Decree of the Asbestos Safety Management Act to “further strengthen asbestos safety management by designating local children's centers as statutory management facilities.” See: 취약계층 주거환경 개선사업 확대 [Expansion of Housing Environment Improvement Projects for the Vulnerable].

Asbestos Eradication in Ulsan

Dec 12, 2023

On December 8, 2023, the Department of Education of Ulsan City – the seventh-largest City in South Korea – announced it was spending 13 billion won (US$10m) during the upcoming winter school vacation to remove asbestos from 7 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 5 high schools; a total of 72,511m² of asbestos will be removed. On December 4, Ulsan officials conducted training sessions for 100 members of the asbestos monitoring group – including faculty, staff and parents from the 17 schools – who will be involved in oversight of the new phase of the decontamination work. See: 울산시교육청 겨울방학 중 17개교 석면제거…내년 완료 [Ulsan Metropolitan Office of Education removes asbestos from 17 schools during winter vacation... completed next year].

Asbestos in Gyeonggi’s Schools

Dec 12, 2023

During a December 6 meeting of the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly's Budget Committee, Rep. Lee Oh-su warned that “the mismanagement of asbestos removal work by the Gyeonggi-do Office of Education” threatened the health of students and teachers. The deadline set by the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education for the eradication of asbestos from all its schools is 2026. Rep. Lee Oh-su was worried that a lack of funding would result in failure by Gyeonggi to meet this target. See: 이오수 경기도의원, 학생 및 교원 안전 위협하는 경기도 교육청의 석면 제거 공사 관리부실 지적 [Gyeonggi Provincial Assemblyman Lee Oh-su points out the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education's poor management of asbestos removal work, which threatens the safety of students and teachers].

Asbestos in Schools

Dec 8, 2023

A health alert was raised by a citizens’ group about the presence of asbestos in some private nursery schools in Gwangju City in the southwest of South Korea. According to a new press release, asbestos material was present in 17 out of 136 kindergartens; 1,878 children attend the affected schools, all of which are under private ownership. Commenting on this situation, a spokesperson for the Gwangju City Office of Education said: “Private kindergartens are private property, so there is no legal basis to support them, but for the safety of children, we will find ways to support them…” See: “광주 사립유치원 17곳 원아 석면 노출…대책 마련 시급” [“exposure to asbestos in 17 private kindergartens in Gwangjus... It is urgent to take countermeasures”].

Asbestos at Theme Park

Dec 1, 2023

At a press conference which took place in the Gangwon Province of South Korea on November 28, 2023, spokespersons for a broad-based coalition of environmental groups, including the Environmental Health Citizen's Center, announced that tremolite asbestos had been identified in six out of eight samples taken from more than 30 landscape stones at the Karst Geology Theme Park in the Korean Peninsula Myeon, Yeongwol-gun. A complaint was filed at the Yeongwol-gun Police Station. Asbestos use has been banned in South Korea since 2009. See: 영월군 공원 조경석에서 석면 검출 [Asbestos detected in landscaping stones at Yeongwol-gun Park

Asbestos Watchdog

Nov 17, 2023

On November 14, 2023, it was announced that the authorities in South Korea’s Gimhae City had created an Asbestos Safety Management Monitoring Group to act as an asbestos watchdog to protect citizens from deadly workplace exposures to asbestos during renovating, removal and demolition work. According to Lee Yong-kyu, head of the City’s Climate Response Division: “We will secure reliability and transparency at work by overseeing asbestos dismantling work through the activities of the Asbestos Safety Management Monitoring Group.” See: 김해시, 석면안전관리감시단 출범…그린리더 20명 구성 [Gimhae City Launches Asbestos Safety Management Monitoring Group... Comprising 20 Green Leaders].

Asbestos in Nursery Schools

Nov 8, 2023

Politician Cha Hyeon-ju from South Korea’s Gyeongsangbuk Province, in the east of the country, told the Provincial Assembly of his concerns regarding the slow progress being made in eradicating the asbestos hazard from private nursery schools: “Out of 208 private kindergartens in the province, 59 (28%) are in need of asbestos removal work... prompt action will be needed to protect the health of kindergarten students.” He urged the Office of Education to “take active measures” to safeguard all school children. See: 차주식 경북도의원 “사립유치원 석면해체공사 지원 대책 마련해야” [Gyeongsangbuk Provincial Assemblyman Cha Hyeon-ju “We need to prepare measures to support asbestos dismantling work in private kindergartens”].

Eradicating Environmental Asbestos Hazard

Oct 30, 2023

According to information released this month by officials from Goheung County, in one of the areas in the southernmost part of the Korean peninsula, progress is being made in the safe disposal of asbestos-cement roofing waste as per terms stipulated in the Waste Management Act. “We have,” said a press release “secured 4,400 million won (US$3.2m) in the estimated budget to deal with the discarded waste tiles… we will do our best to protect the health of the people of the county from asbestos-containing roofing and create a comfortable living environment.” See: 고흥군, 1급 발암물질 석면 함유 폐슬레이트 추가 처리 [Goheung County further treats waste slate containing asbestos, a class 1 carcinogen].

Asbestos Awareness for Pupils

Oct 30, 2023

Because of the ubiquity of asbestos-containing products throughout the educational infrastructure in South Korea, a program was developed to explain to children, in an age-appropriate manner, the hazards of asbestos exposure and how such hazards were being managed. Both online and paper resources were developed by a coalition of civil society groups, “to improve the understanding of asbestos among children and adolescents.” See: 전국지역아동센터협의회, 아동 '석면이란?' 교육 영상 배포 [ Distribution of Educational Videos. National Council of Regional Children's Centers Distributes Children's “What Is Asbestos?”].

A Tragic Asbestos Legacy

Oct 19, 2023

Officials in the South Korean County of Hongseong called for an “expansion of the asbestos victims’ health care service project” in recognition of the fact that the county had the highest number of asbestos victims in South Korea. According to Jang Jae-seok, a member of the Hongseong County Council, 10 of Korea’s 38 asbestos mines were in Hongseong. Many of Hongseong’s asbestos victims are elderly and find it difficult to access medical resources outside their localities. See: "석면 피해자 최다 발생 홍성... 실질 지원방안 마련해야" [“The highest number of asbestos victims is in Hongseong... We need to come up with a real support plan”].

Subsidizing Asbestos Removal Costs

Oct 17, 2023

On October 12, 2023, a contract was signed by the Busan Environmental Corporation with Rotary International District 3661, under which plans were agreed to provide subsidies for low-income families in Korea’s 2nd biggest city to help them bear the costs of the removal and replacement of toxic asbestos roofing. In 2018, the two organizations provided a total of 1,400 million won (US$1m) to 2,000 low-income households. This year, a subsidy of 3,661 million won (US$2.7m) will be made available to replace asbestos roofs for vulnerable groups. See: 부산환경공단·국제로타리 3661지구, 저소득층 가정 슬레이트 철거비용 지원 [Busan Environmental Corporation, Rotary International District 3661 to help low-income families with slate removal costs].

Asbestos at the Park

Oct 17, 2023

An asbestos audit of the building site for the Incheon Wonsin Neighborhood Park, located in the Seo-gu district of the South Korean city of Incheon, found pieces of asbestos-cement (AC) debris and asbestos fibers in the grass and soil. The AC debris contained up to 10% asbestos fiber. The Western Youth Training Center was located next to the construction site. Construction began on the park project in May 2023; after excavation work began in September, asbestos was found in the soil. An official for the district confirmed that the results of a soil survey are awaited. See: 인천지역 청소년시설 코앞에 ‘석면 흙가루’ 풀풀 [‘Asbestos dust grass’ pool in front of Incheon youth facility].

Specialist Support for Schools

Oct 16, 2023

Authorities in Korea take the issue of asbestos very seriously and have strict regulations regarding the management of asbestos in schools. The Education Support Agency in Seongnam, a satellite city of the country’s capital, announced last week that it had signed a risk assessment and maintenance service contract with the Korea Asbestos Environment Research Institute, which will take over responsibility for supervising asbestos material in schools and provide professional management of affected premises. See: 성남교육지원청, 학교석면 위해성평가 및 유지보수 용역 실시 [Seongnam Education Support Agency, school asbestos risk assessment and maintenance service].

Protecting Children in Safe Schools

Oct 16, 2023

On October 11, 2023, the Office of Education in the Korean Province of Gyeonggi announced a new program to created “safe schools, schools that prepare for the future.” Amongst the work which will be undertaken under this initiative, for which 1.5 trillion won (US$1.1bn) has been allocated every year, is the completion of work to remove asbestos from schools. Since 2016, the Province has been eradicating the asbestos hazard from schools; as a result of steady progress, the provincial education department plans to complete the project one year early. The modernizing of schools will create more than 20,000 jobs. See: 경기도교육청, 학교시설 개선에 매년 1조5천억원 투입 [Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education invests 1.5 trillion won annually to improve school facilities].

Asbestos in Schools

Oct 13, 2023

A deadline of 2027 has been set by the Office of Education supervising the western part of the Korean city of Daejeon for the eradication of the asbestos hazard from 57 schools, with spokesperson Chae Hong pledging that: “We will do our best to complete the asbestos dismantling and removal work safely during the summer vacation period so that we can provide a comfortable and safe educational environment for students.” To date, 8.3 billion won (US$6.2m) had been spent to decontaminate six schools in the district. A further 3.2 billion won (US$2.4m) has been allocated for work at 2 more schools during the winter vacation 2023/24. See: 대전서부교육지원청,'석면 없는 청정 학교 조성' [Daejeon West Education Support Agency, ‘Creation of Asbestos-Free and Clean Schools’].

Workers Should Obtain Health Care Cards

Oct 9, 2023

Members of Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries trade union held an outreach rally on October 4, 2023, urging workers who had experienced workplace exposures to toxic substances like asbestos to obtain a health care card. The card is available to current, retired, contracted as well as permanent workers and entitles holders to free, annual medical examinations under the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Early examinations facilitate early diagnoses of occupational cancer; as well as speeding up the provision of government benefits; early diagnoses means that more medical options could be explored for treatment and care of the injured. See: "조선소 석면 취급 노동자 건강관리카드 발급 받으세요" [“Get a shipyard asbestos handling worker health care card”].

Supporting Gwangju’s Asbestos Victims

Sep 22, 2023

On September 19, 2023 officials in Gwangju City, in the southwest of South Korea, announced an expansion of the city’s efforts to support citizens who contract asbestos-related diseases as a result of environmental exposures, including those who had lived near asbestos-using factories. The municipality is increasing its budgetary allocation for its asbestos relief program and streamlining the application process to ensure swift payment of benefits – within 60 days – to victims and/or bereaved family members. See: 광주시, 석면피해 구제급여 확대한다 [Gwangju City expands relief benefits for asbestos damage].

Protest over Asbestos Crimes

Sep 21, 2023

On September 12, 2023, a group of activists in Wonju City – in South Korea’s Gangwon Province – held a press conference in front of the Wonju Academy Theater, where they said that: “asbestos removal was carried out illegally…” in violation of provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Asbestos Safety Management Act. As a result of unsafe practices by contractors, workers as well as members of the public and local business people were exposed to asbestos fibers. Officials ordered demolition work to cease until a plan was approved to ensure the safety of all concerned. See: "아카데미극장 석면 불법 철거…주민·상인 1급 발암물질 노출" [“Illegal demolition of asbestos at the Academy Theatre... Exposure of residents and merchants to class 1 carcinogens”].

Asbestos Health Surveillance Project

Aug 31, 2023

Next month (September 2023), residents of eight wards of Jeju Island, South Korea's largest island, will be eligible to take part in an innovative health screening program run by the Ministry of Environment to identify members of the public adversely affected by historic asbestos exposures. Jeju Island is an asbestos hotspot because of the use and handling of asbestos-containing material at ship repair yards on the island. To be eligible, applicants must have lived in at-risk areas for 40 years. The tests will be carried out by personnel from the Asbestos Environmental Health Center of Cheonan Hospital of Sooncheonyang University. See: 제주도, 석면 노출 우려지역 무료 건강영향 조사 [Jeju Island, free health impact survey in areas of concern for asbestos exposure].

Asbestos Awareness Training: Upgrade

Aug 25, 2023

On August 23, 2023, the opening ceremony of the new headquarters of South Korea’s Asbestos Damage Prevention Support Center was held in the Yeonsu District of Incheon City. The Center provides awareness training for asbestos investigators and occupational safety personnel. Greeting all the well wishers, the Chairman of the Center Choi Mi-kyung said: “As an educational institution of the Ministry of Employment and Labor with the goal of protecting the safety of workers and citizens, we will strive to provide asbestos safety and health education to create a safe environment through communication and cooperation.” See: 석면피해예방지원센터, 연수구로 확장 이전 [Asbestos Damage Prevention Support Center relocates to Yeonsu-gu].

Supporting Asbestos Victims

Aug 17, 2023

Following research by a municipal study group, the Council of Korea’s Hongseong County introduced protocols to improve vital services for victims of asbestos-related diseases including: increased capacity for the provision of healthcare for asbestos victims, the expansion of staff and equipment needed to treat victims at Hongseong Medical Center, subsidies to cover transport and nursing expenses for victims, etc. The County Council has committed itself to maintaining a watching brief so that other measures to support the injured can be introduced as needed in collaboration with other local councils and government ministries. See: 홍성군의회, 석면피해자 구제지원 개선 방안 모색 [Hongseong County Council seeks ways to improve relief support for asbestos victims].

Subsidies for Asbestos Eradication

Aug 17, 2023

The South Korean Province of Gyeongnam-do, in the southeast of the country, has allocated the sum of 240 billion won (US $180m) to subsidize the removal and disposal of asbestos roofing on houses, barns, warehouses, etc. to prevent toxic exposures to people who live or use the contaminated buildings. The full costs will be met for vulnerable households and others will receive a maximum of 352,700 million won (US$264,000) to carry out the work. See: 경남도, 석면 슬레이트 건출물 처리비용 지원 [Gyeongnam-do, asbestos slate construction disposal cost support].

Asbestos Alert!

Aug 16, 2023

As Typhoon Kanun approached Korea, warnings were issued by Wonju City officials about the likelihood of the town’s Academy Theater collapsing from the effects of the storm. A recent safety inspection had confirmed that as a result of cracks in the building’s thin asbestos roof, the capacity of the theater to survive typhoon conditions was uncertain. A spokesperson for the municipality said that emergency safety inspections would be carried out to protect the population “by promptly demolishing buildings that continue to threaten the safety and health of citizens as planned.” See: 원주시, ‘태풍 카눈’ 북상으로 ‘안전성 평가 D등급 건물 붕괴 위험’ 고조 [Wonju City Raises 'Risk of Collapse of Safety Assessment Class D Building' as ‘Typhoon Kanun’ Arises to the North].

Asbestos-Free Schools by 2024

Jul 21, 2023

According to a statement on July 14th by the Jeonbuk Office of Education, eradication of asbestos from elementary, middle and high schools in Jeonbuk will be completed on schedule by 2024. During Summer vacations, work will be carried out at 40 Jeonbuk schools under the supervision of school asbestos monitoring groups, composed, at each facility, of the school principal or assistant principal, asbestos building safety manager, parents, civic groups, asbestos supervisor, on-site representative of asbestos dismantling / removal company and construction supervisor. See: 전북교육청 "내년까지 도내 초중고 학교에서 석면 깨끗이 퇴출" [Jeonbuk Office of Education “Elimination of asbestos from elementary, middle and high schools in the province by next year”].

Living with Asbestos

Jul 14, 2023

Despite the existence of a national ban and regulations for managing asbestos-containing material, many people lack the financial resources to comply with guidelines. The article cited below described the hazardous conditions of people living in substandard houses containing asbestos products in the Mulmangol area of the South Korean city of Busan. Commenting on this situation Busan City Council member Kim Hyung-cheol said: “Due to the nature of unauthorized buildings, maintenance is not easy, but we cannot ignore residents whose lives are threatened by asbestos.” See: 빗물은 예사, 지붕 무너질까 걱정…석면 위험 알아도 돈 없어 못 고쳐 [Rainwater is normal, worried about the roof collapsing … I know the danger of asbestos, but I can't fix it because I don't have the money].

Asbestos in Schools

Jul 11, 2023

According to a report released in Seoul on July 3, 2023 by the Environmental Health Citizens’ Center and the Gyeonggi Environmental Movement Alliance, around 40% of the elementary, middle and high schools in the Gyeonggi area of Korea still contain asbestos. During the coming months, whilst the schools are shut due to summer vacations, the authorities will be removing asbestos from 35 schools including 13 elementary, 10 middle and 12 high schools. See: 경기지역 학교 969곳, 석면 무방비 노출 [969 schools in Gyeonggi area exposed to asbestos Unprotected].

Asbestos in Schools

Jul 6, 2023

On June 28, 2023, the Office of Education of the Korean City of Daejeon announced plans to remove asbestos at four schools whilst they are empty during the summer vacation at a cost of 5.3 billion won (US$4m). Before work begins, briefings will be held for the asbestos monitor group and faculty members. According to a spokesperson for the municipality: “We will do our best to ensure that asbestos dismantling and removal work during the summer vacation can be carried out in a transparent and safe manner, with both parents and faculty members agreeing.” See: 대전서부교육청「여름방학 석면해체·제거 공사 추진」 [Daejeon Seobu Office of Education, promoting asbestos dismantling and removal work during summer vacation].

Health Surveillance of At-Risk Population

Jun 26, 2023

From June 16 to 29, 2023, an asbestos outreach program in the South Korean town of Hongseong-gun is screening residents from the area to identify those who may have a condition caused by asbestos exposures. Participants in this health project will receive a free medical checkup and be X-rayed. They will also be asked to complete a questionnaire. Anyone who shows symptoms of disease will receive a second detailed examination and undergo procedures such as a chest CT and lung function test. The medical care is being provided by the Asbestos Environmental Health Center of Soonchunhyang University. See: 홍성군, ‘석면 건강 영향조사’ 실시 [Hongseong-gun conducts ‘asbestos health impact survey’].

Asbestos Remediation of Schools

Jun 19, 2023

On June 16, 2023, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education announced that it would take punitive action in accordance with provisions of the Asbestos Safety Management Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act against companies convicted of falsifying reports regarding asbestos removal projects. This public declaration was made in response to footage taken by a whistleblower of unsafe working practices by asbestos removal contractors at an elementary school in Seoul. See: 서울시교육청 "학교 석면 해체 허위 보고서 업체, 제재" [Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education “Sanctions against companies reporting false reports on dismantling asbestos in schools].

Subsidizing Asbestos Removal

Jun 12, 2023

On June 5, 2023, the Korean city of Gapyeong-gun announced plans to invest a further 279 million won (US$ 215,000) in the eradication of asbestos from the municipality’s built environment. Owners of buildings with asbestos roofing can apply for subsidies worth up to 3.36 million won (US$2,600) each to pay for asbestos removal work. Specialist companies approved by the Minister of Environment must be employed for these projects. See: 가평군, 석면 슬레이트 처리 지원사업 추진키로 [Gapyeong-gun decides to increase support for asbestos slate treatment project].

Asbestos in Schools

May 30, 2023

In 2022, the South Korean Province of Gyeonggi allocated 450 billion won (US$340m) for the removal of asbestos in 216 elementary, middle, high and special school buildings as a matter of public health. The results of the 2022 asbestos eradication program were discussed on May 25th at a meeting of the Provincial Office of Education in the capital city of Gyeonggi-do. See: 경기도, 초중고∙특수학교 건축물 석면 제거 등에 4500억원투입 [Gyeonggi-do invests 450 billion won in asbestos removal in elementary, middle, high and special school buildings].

Asbestos in Schools

May 15, 2023

On May 6, 2023, the Dongducheon Yangju Office of Education in South Korea confirmed that elementary and middle school students in the Yangju area were still being taught in classrooms where asbestos material was present. The contaminated premises were: three kindergartens, including Kanap elementary school’s attached kindergarten, 12 elementary schools, including Eunbong and Kanap elementary schools, and three middle schools, including Joyang and Deokgye Middle Schools. The Provincial Office of Education has allocated 70.9 billion won (US$53.4m) for the removal of asbestos from 217 schools in the province in 2023. See: 양주지역 석면 학교 여전… 대책 마련 시급 [Yangju area asbestos school still … Urgent countermeasures].

Identifying Asbestos Victims

May 4, 2023

One in four of the asbestos victims in Busan, South Korea had lived in the South District in the 1960s to 1980s. Many of the 785 injured people never worked with asbestos but only breathed in toxic fibers liberated by asbestos processing operations carried out at factories in the city. Residents of the South District were the worst affected due to the operations of the Busan Steel Plant. Asbestos liberated by the Cheil Chemical asbestos textile factory created a cancer hotspot in the Yeonje District, another Busan neighborhood. See: 부산 석면 피해자, 넷 중 1명이 1960~80년대 옛 남구 거주 [Asbestos victims in Busan, 1 in 4 lived in the former South District in the 1960s to 1980s].

Cancer and Death in the Asbestos City

May 3, 2023

The long latency period for the occurrence of asbestos-related diseases has now been reached in Busan, Korea, as a result of which there has been a 128% increase in the numbers of people suffering from asbestosis and lung cancer. In the 1970s and 1980s, Busan was called the “Asbestos City” due to the presence of many asbestos factories. Unfortunately, as the numbers of the affected has grown, the budget for their medical care has been reduced. The number of cases of people with recognized asbestos-related diseases in 2022 was 6000% more than in 2018. See: ‘석면 잠복기(10~40년)’ 끝났다…부산 4년새 피해자 128% 폭증 [‘Asbestos incubation period (10 to 40 years)’ is over… 128% increase in victims in 4 years in Busan].

Asbestos Check-ups in Busan

Apr 27, 2023

Starting in November 2023, the authorities in Busan, Korea will conduct free health monitoring for residents who lived near former asbestos factories and shipyards, and areas with a high density of asbestos-cement roofing. Eligible individuals will be interviewed at length and then given a basic medical examination at the Asbestos Environmental Health Center of Yangsan Busan National University Hospital. If adverse findings are reported, follow-up tests will be conducted. See: 부산시, 석면 피해 의심 주민 대상 무료건강검진 Busan City, free health check-ups for residents suspected of being affected by asbestos].

Asbestos Outreach Program

Apr 20, 2023

Authorities of South Korea’s Jeju Province announced that a program to assess the health impact on residents in asbestos hotspots would be carried out in four cities including Jeju, Jeju Province and Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province; these municipalities were chosen because of their shipyard repair facilities. Residents who lived within a 4 km radius of the shipyards for more than ten years are eligible to take part in the program run by the Asbestos Environmental Health Center. Anyone diagnosed with an asbestos disease can claim benefits from the relief system operated by the Environmental Industry and Technology Institute. See: 제주시 구도심 주민 대상 ‘석면’ 노출 여부 조사 [Investigation on ‘asbestos’ exposure to residents of Jeju City's old city center].

Asbestos Eradication Program Subsidies

Mar 17, 2023

On March 13, 2023, the authorities of Korea’s Suwon Special Administrative City announced the availability of funds of up to 2 million won (US$1540) to dismantle and remove asbestos-containing material from day care and senior citizen centers. Facility owners can download an application form from the Suwon Special City website and submit the completed form along with other relevant documents, including a copy of the asbestos investigation report, business registration certificate or corporate registration certificate, to officials at Suwon City Hall. See: 수원특례시, '석면 해체·제거 지원사업' 참여자 모집 [Suwon Special City, Recruitment of Participants in ‘Asbestos Dismantling and Removal Support Project’].

Asbestos in Children’s Centers

Mar 13, 2023

A meeting to consider ways to address asbestos contamination of local children’s centers took place on March 7, 2023 in Korea’s National Assembly. Commenting on the event, Lee Hak-young, who co-hosted the meeting, said: “I hope that this meeting will once again awaken awareness of asbestos and contribute to solving the problem of improving the environment of local children's centers where children and adolescents spend a lot of time.” During the session, key stakeholders including government officials, reported the reality of the situation on the ground and made recommendations. See: 지역아동센터 석면진단 의무화 됐지만… [Asbestos diagnosis at local children's centers has become mandatory, but…].

Asbestos Eradication Plan

Mar 6, 2023

According to a February 27, 2023 press release from the Jeonbuk Office of Education, the municipality has approved a budget of 17.5 billion won (US$13.3m) to remove 82,000 square meters of asbestos material from schools in 2023. If this year's goal is achieved, only 55,000 square meters (1.1% of the total floor area) of asbestos material will remain schools. The deadline for eradicating this hazard in Jeonbuk is 2024, three years ahead of the deadline set by the Ministry of Education. See: 전북학교 석면 시설물 내년에 전부 없어진다 [All asbestos facilities in Jeonbuk schools will be removed next year].

Asbestos Eradication Program

Mar 3, 2023

On February 26, 2023, the authorities of Yeongcheon, a South Korean city in North Gyeongsang Province, announced that in the interests of public health it would be subsidizing the removal costs of asbestos roofing for property owners. Applications must be submitted before the end of March with 10 million won ($US7,600) per property available for a total of 200 houses and 34 other buildings. See: 영천시, 주택 지붕 등 슬레이트 철거비 지원...3월 말까지 접수 [Yeongcheon City, support for slate demolition costs such as roofs of houses...Available until the end of March].

Asbestos Eradication in Schools

Feb 28, 2023

On February 23, 2023, it was announced that the Department of Education of the Korean municipality of Guri Namyangju, had allocated 10.8 billion won (US8.2m) for 2023-2027 to remove asbestos from all the public schools in the Guri and Namyangju region by 2027. To protect students and teachers, the asbestos eradication work will be carried out during the winter school holidays. Off the 171 schools in Guri and Namyangju, 91 still contain asbestos material; 46 buildings have already been decontaminated. See: 구리남양주교육청, 2027년까지 108억 들여 석면 제거 [Guri Namyangju Office of Education, 10.8 billion won to remove asbestos by 2027].

Asbestos Eradication: Update

Feb 22, 2023

Accepting that the cost for the removal of asbestos from domestic properties is beyond the reach of many households, the South Korean Government has, since 2011, been progressing an asbestos eradication program to protect public health. A scheme operated under the Ministry of the Environment allocated 3.52 million won (US$2,700) per building for asbestos decontamination; local governments provided additional sums for demolition and other work. New figures released by the authorities in Jeonbuk Province stated that as of 2021 there were still 85,000+ buildings with asbestos; at the current rate, the decontamination program in Jeonbuk will not be completed until 2038. See: 석면철거 마무리 계획 앞당겨야 [Asbestos removal plan to be completed].

Asbestos in Schools

Feb 14, 2023

In a press conference at Incheon City Hall, the Incheon Environmental Movement Federation and campaigners from the National School Asbestos Parents Network, the Korea Asbestos Eradication Network, and the Environmental Health Citizens’ Center warned the city and the Office of Education about the dangers of asbestos removal in schools. Speakers at the event highlighted faulty regulation of the asbestos hazard during asbestos removal work at two schools during the winter school vacation. See: "인천 학교 석면 철거 엉터리... 민·관 감시단 구성해야” [“Incheon school asbestos removal is a sham... A private and public monitoring group needs to be formed”].

Increase in Asbestos Removal Subsidies

Feb 8, 2023

From February 6, 2023, the budget allocated by South Korea’s Ministry of Environment to cover the costs of the demolition of asbestos roofing will be almost doubled to 7 million dong (US $5,550) per household. The expansion of funds is intended to speed up the eradication of the asbestos hazard from the built environment in line with the country’s deadline of 2033 for the removal of all asbestos roofing throughout South Korea. Key aspects of the Government’s detailed and timetabled road map for the elimination of asbestos have been allocated to multiple government departments and agencies. See: ‘석면 슬레이트 지붕’ 철거비 지원규모 2배로 확대 ['Asbestos slate roof' demolition cost support doubled].

Asbestos in Schools

Feb. 8, 2023

A January 30 press release by the Incheon Federation for Environmental Movement (IFEM) condemned simultaneous removal of asbestos from schools during the winter vacation saying: “Due to the nature of the risk of exposure to group 1 carcinogens… partial removal should be avoided as much as possible...The Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education should more thoroughly inspect schools undergoing asbestos removal work.” Due to failures to appropriately monitor the removal work, the IFEM plans to set up a monitoring group to inspect schools where asbestos removal is currently in progress. See: 인천 학교 32개 석면철거 대상...“부분 철거 위험 노출 키워[32 schools in Incheon subject to asbestos removal...“Increased exposure to partial demolition risks”].

Asbestos Eradication Program

Jan 31, 2023

On January 28, 2023, the South Korean Province of Jeonbuk-do announced plans to address asbestos contamination in 90 daycare centers. The twenty-seven buildings worst affected – which have recorded high levels of airborne asbestos fibers – will be demolished this year. By the end of 2024, asbestos will be eradicated from the remaining properties. According to a provincial official: “We started the project to prevent exposure of sensitive infants and toddlers to harmful substances.” See: 전북도, 올해 어린이집 27개소 석면 자재 철거 지원 [Jeonbuk-do supports removal of asbestos materials from 27 daycare centers this year].

Asbestos Scandal Uncovered

Jan 23, 2023

On January 18, 2023, the Seoul Office of Education announced that it had lodged a complaint against companies which had filed erroneous reports relating to the presence of asbestos at 17 schools. The fraudulent activity had been discovered after on-site audits by the Seoul Office of Education which is now seeking to recover all monies paid to the negligent companies and to bring charges against the wrongdoers. New procedures were implemented as of January 10, 2023 to prevent a recurrence of these incidents. See: 학교 석면 검사 '부실'…서울교육청, 석면 잔해물 '허위조사' 업체 고발 [School asbestos inspection 'poor'… Seoul Office of Education files complaint against company for 'false investigation' of asbestos debris].

Eradicating Asbestos in Schools

Jan 13, 2023

Asbestos removal work is being carried out by contractors commissioned by the Ulsan Metropolitan Office of Education to eradicate the toxic substance from 16 schools in South Korea during the winter school vacation. After the work has been completed, the asbestos monitoring group – made up of parents, asbestos supervisors, external environmental experts, representatives of civil society and school staff – will conduct follow-up tests to measure the air quality inside affected classrooms. See: 울산교육청, 겨울방학 학교 60곳 교육환경개선 [Ulsan Office of Education, Improvement of educational environment in 60 winter vacation schools].

Low Level of Asbestos Awareness

Jan 11, 2023

On January 9, 2023, the results of a survey undertaken by personnel from the Citizens’ Center for Environmental Health, Korea were published. In the survey, more than half (56.7%) the people questioned didn’t know whether asbestos was present in the schools their children attended. In addition, 42.1% didn’t know whether their house, office or factory contained asbestos material. A not insignificant number of people (17.6%) also didn’t know that asbestos was classed as a group 1 carcinogen. See: 국민 절반 이상 자녀 학교건물의 ‘석면’ 사용 여부 모른다 [More than half of the population does not know whether ‘asbestos’ is used in school buildings for children].

Asbestos Cancer Latency Study

Jan 4, 2023

An academic paper published in the December 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, which examined the latency period of malignant mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer in Korea, found that the latency periods for malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer were 33.7 and 40.1 years, respectively. The shortest latency periods were found in former asbestos factory workers; people who worked or lived near an asbestos mine had relatively long disease latency. See: Disease Latency according to Asbestos Exposure Characteristics among Malignant Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer Cases in South Korea.

Recognition of Veteran’s Asbestos Death

Sep 30, 2022

In a legal breakthrough on September 26, 2022 Korean Judge Lee Tae-young of the Daejeon District Court 1st Administrative Unit reversed a decision which had barred the family of a 56-year-old military officer from receiving compensation for his death from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma and recognized that this disease had been directly caused by asbestos exposures which had taken place during his 30 years of military service. The Veterans Affairs Office did not appeal. Commenting on the outcome of the litigation, the family’s lawyer said that more cases of servicemen with asbestos cancer were likely to occur in the future. See: 석면 노출 30년 만에 숨진 장교, 법원 “공무상 재해” [Death of officer after 30 years of asbestos exposure, officially ruled as “accident” by court].

Asbestos Education Program

Sep 7, 2022

On September 5, 2022, the Korean Association for Asbestos Safety and Health held an intensive workshop to raise asbestos awareness amongst public officials and civil servants under a program developed in partnership with the Ministry of Justice. Topics covered included the asbestos safety management law, guidelines and regulations pertaining to asbestos inspections of buildings, and case studies for civil servants in local governments. See: 한국석면안전보건연대, 법무부 석면안전지킴이와 함께한 ‘석면안전관리 심화예방교육’ [‘Intensive Asbestos Safety Management Training’ with Korea Asbestos Safety and Health Association and Ministry of Justice asbestos Safety Keepers].

Asbestos in Incheon Schools

Jul 14, 2022

At a morning press conference on July 14, 2022 in Incheon, Korea members of a coalition of campaigners, parents and technicians announced the results of their 2022 survey of Incheon schools. According to the data collected, one third (280) of all the elementary, middle and high schools (968) still contain asbestos material. A spokesperson of the Incheon Federation of Environmental Movements Shim Hyung-jin told the meeting: “In order to make an asbestos-free school [system] by 2027, we need to establish a monitoring system and transparently monitor the demolition process.” See: 인천 유초중고 중 1/3은 석면학교…“대책 마련 돼야" [One-third of Incheon elementary, middle and high schools are asbestos schools… “Measures must be taken”].

Eradication of Toxic Landscaping

Jul 14, 2022

On July 13, 2022, environmental and consumers’ groups welcomed news of the removal of two huge landscaping boulders from the grounds of Incheon Grand Park. The work was undertaken by city authorities after a successful campaign raised public awareness that the stones contained deadly asbestos fibers. The work had been carried out on July 12. According to a press spokesperson for Incheon Grand Park: “The removed asbestos landscape stone was safely disposed of by a professional asbestos treatment company.” See: 인천 환경단체 "인천대공원 석면 조경석 철거 환영" [Incheon environmental group “Welcome to the removal of asbestos landscaping stone at Incheon Grand Park”].

Asbestos Outreach Care

Jun 10, 2022

On June 9, 2022, a new asbestos outreach program was announced by officials from the Korean city of Sacheon, Gyeongnam. Anyone who believed that he/she was exposed to asbestos can obtain a free health checkup for asbestos injuries without booking by attending clinics between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Hyangchon-dong Administrative Welfare Center (June 25) and the Sacheon-eup Administrative Welfare Center (June 26). During these sessions, individuals will consult a doctor, have an X-ray taken and fill out an asbestos exposure history questionnaire. See: 사천시, 찾아가는 석면피해 무료 건강검진 [Free health checkup [facility] for asbestos damage visiting Sacheon City].

Spreading Awareness and Good Practice

Jun 3, 2022

An asbestos program for officials in the South Korean City of Busan whose duties might bring them into contact with asbestos has been announced. The training program for the civil servants will be compiled and delivered by staff from the Korean Association for Asbestos Safety and Health. Amongst the topics which will be covered are: asbestos removal guidelines, techniques for preventing toxic exposures of removal operatives, and asbestos safety management inspection protocols. See: 한국석면안전보건연대, 2022 첫 '찾아가는 석면안전관리 심화교육' 부산시 공무원 대상 개시 [Korea Association for Asbestos Safety and Health, 2022 first ‘visiting asbestos safety management in-depth education’ for public officials in Busan].

Asbestos in Schools

May 27, 2022

At a Seoul press conference on May 25, 2022, researchers from the Citizen's Center for Environment and Health and the National School Asbestos Parents Network, informed journalists that “4-5 out of 10 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide are still ‘asbestos schools’.” Campaigners called on the government to prioritize the removal of asbestos from schools as a matter of urgency. The news was widely reported by the media. At one-time, the use of asbestos material in schools had been mandatory; asbestos was banned in Korea in 2009. See: 환경단체 "전국 초중고교 절반은 여전히 '석면 학교'" [Environmental group “About half of elementary, middle and high schools nationwide are still ‘asbestos schools’”].

Asbestos in Schools

May 18, 2022

Officials in the Department of Education in South Korea’s Gyeongbuk Province announced on May 17, 2022 that work to remove asbestos from schools in the district will be completed in 2025; the original deadline had been 2027, but due to the danger to students and staff posed by the presence of asbestos material in the schools, remediation work had been made a priority. In 2022, decontamination work is being carried out in 112 schools; to minimize toxic exposures to the children, the work will be undertaken during the summer and winter vacations. See: 경북교육청, 학교 석면 제거 2년 앞당겨 완료 예정 [Gyeongbuk Office of Education to complete school asbestos removal two years earlier].

Support for At-Risk Populations

May 18, 2022

Changes were announced this week in the management of an asbestos outreach project in South Korea’s Chungnam Province. The formerly privately-run project – called the asbestos victims’ health care initiative – has been put into the hands of a public institution: the Hongseong Medical Center. Services available to participants and their families include: home visits, health check-ups, psychological counselling and symptom management training. Asbestos, a known carcinogen, was widely used in Korea in building products, soundproofing material, textiles, automotive parts and shipbuilding. See: 충남 석면피해자, 홍성의료원서 집중 관리 [Intensive management of asbestos victims in Chungcheongnam-do, Hongseong Medical Center].

Medical Surveillance of At-Risk Populations

Apr 29, 2022

Medical screening sessions carried out by staff at Soonchunhyang University Cheonan Hospital, under the auspices of the Korean Ministry of Environment in accordance with the Asbestos Damages Relief Act, will take place between April 25 and November 2022, to assess the health impact on residents in asbestos hotspots in North Jeolla Province, South and North Chungcheong Provinces, North Gyeongsang Province, Ulsan City  etc. The health impact survey is free of charge for patients. See: 순천향대 천안병원 석면피해 우려지역 주민 건강영향조사 [Soonchunhyang University Cheonan Hospital Health Impact Survey for Residents in Areas of Concern for Asbestos Damage].

Calls for More Help for Asbestos Victims

Apr 25, 2022

On April 20, 2022, the Ministry of Environment released data showing that asbestos-related diseases contracted by 166 people (119 with asbestos damage, 69 with asbestos-related lung disease and 34 people with mesothelioma) in Incheon, South Korea had been officially recognized between 2011 and 2021. Campaigners are calling for more financial provision and increased medical capacity for supporting asbestos victims. Rep. Hong Moon-Pyo has submitted two amendments to the Asbestos Damage Relief Act which would boost health management and preventative measures for local residents. See: 인천서 석면 노출 피해 인원 연 15명..피해 예방 시급 [15 asbestos exposure victims per year in Incheon. Immediate damage prevention [needed]].

Toxic Landscaping in Korean Park

Apr 11, 2022

At a press conference on April 7, 2022, Korean environmental groups – the Incheon-Gyeonggi Environmental Movement Federation, Environmental Health Citizens' Center, and Korea Asbestos Expulsion Network – lambasted the authorities for failing to act on the hazard posed by the presence of asbestos-contaminated ornamental stones landscaping Incheon Park, which has 4 million visitors every year. A spokesperson told journalists that the temporary measures taken to minimize the health hazard were unacceptable and that the contamination must be eradicated as a matter of priority. See: 시민건강 위협 인천대공원 석면조경석 철거해야 [People’s health threatened, Incheon Grand Park asbestos landscaping stone must be removed].

Medical Outreach Initiative in Busan

Mar 28, 2022

On March 25, 2022, Busan City announced that it would be providing free medical check-ups for 1,000 people who had lived near asbestos mines, shipyards or asbestos-processing factories because of the environmental hazard posed by toxic fibers liberated from such locations. Busan was the first Korean city to pioneer such an outreach project, with the first screenings taking place in 2008. The examinations this year will, once again, be conducted by personnel from the Asbestos Environmental Health Center at Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital; to date, the Center has screened 21,092 people, of whom 624 had an asbestos-related disease. See: 부산시, 석면 피해 지역주민에 '찾아가는 건강검진' 실시 [‘Visiting health check-ups’ for residents affected by asbestos in Busan].

Korea’s Deadly Asbestos Mining Legacy

Mar 18, 2022

The effects of asbestos mining and processing in South Korea’s Chungnam Province continue to impact on local people. The extended article cited below contains interviews with asbestos victims whose exposures to fibers from the Gwangcheon Mine – once Asia's largest asbestos mine – and other mines led them to contract asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis. Annual output from the Gwangcheon Mine, which operated from 1938 to 1986, was 190,000 tonnes. Because of its asbestos mines, the region of Chungnam is home to the largest number of Korea’s asbestos victims; between January 2011 and July 2021, 37% of Koreans recognized as asbestos victims came from Chungnam. See: Chungnam Province, the largest asbestos-damaged area in Korea...“Never-ending pain.”.

Schools’ Asbestos Removal Program

Feb 15. 2022

On February 9, 2022, a spokesperson for Gyeonggi Province announced plans by the Provincial Office of Education to remove 500,000 square meters of asbestos from 151 schools and 7,570 classrooms by the end of this year (2022). If work goes according to plan, all schools in the Province will be asbestos-free by 2027. By 2021, half of all schools had been remediated. Asbestos was used as a ceiling material for classrooms in the 1970s and 1990s due to its insulating, thermal insulation, and noise blocking functions. See: 경기도, 올해 151개교 석면 제거…2027년까지 모든 학교 완료 [Gyeonggi-do to remove asbestos from 151 schools this year... All schools completed by 2027].

Remediation of Asbestos in Buildings

Feb 7, 2022

The South Korean City of Jeongeup is progressing efforts to remove and replace deteriorating asbestos-cement roofing to protect the population from exposures to a known cancer-causing fiber. “Aging roofing made with asbestos,” said a city official “contains a class 1 carcinogen, which can be fatal to health over a long period of exposure.” Since 2012, the City has spent a total of ₩ 4.83bn (US$403m) to remediate asbestos and demolish 227 buildings. A budget of ₩ 1.39bn (US$1.1m) has been allocated for the 2022 asbestos removal program. See: 정읍시, 발암물질 ‘석면 차단’ 안전하고 쾌적한 주거환경 개선 [Jeongeup City improves safe and comfortable living environment by blocking carcinogen ‘asbestos’].

Improving Occupational Safety Protocols

Jan 28, 2022

A proposal to improve protection for Korea subcontractors dismantling and removing asbestos are under consideration by the National Assembly's Environment and Labor Committee. On January 24, 2022, draft legislation entitled the “Partial Amendment to the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” which aims to restrict those eligible to undertake asbestos remediation work to licensed personnel and companies was submitted by Lim Ja, the representative from Sangju, Mungyeong, Gyeongsangbuk-do. See: 임이자 의원 “석면해체·제거작업 근로자들의 처우 개선” [“Improving the treatment of asbestos dismantling and removal workers”].

Asbestos Removal Program in Schools

Jan 24, 2022

The Department of Education in the Korean City of Ulsan announced on January 19, 2022 that asbestos remediation would take place in Pyeongsan Elementary School and Byeongyeong Elementary School (Annex) during the winter school vacation. After this work was completed, external experts would supervise air monitoring tests to ensure that the school was safe for use. According to an official, asbestos remediation work at eight other schools will be undertaken during the summer and winter vacations this year. See: 울산 학교 환경개선, 평산초·병영초 석면해체·제거 완료 [Ulsan school environment improvement, asbestos dismantling and removal completed at Pyeongsan Elementary School and Byeongyeong Elementary School].

Asbestos Concerns in Korean Cities

Jan 13, 2022

Campaigners from the Korean groups Environmental Health Civic Center and Incheon Environmental Movement Association revealed on January 12, 2022 the findings of tests which showed that landscaping boulders used at two landmark sites contained tremolite asbestos fibers. The toxic products were located at Incheon Grand Park and the Bucheon Shopping Mall in the cities of Seoul and Bucheon respectively. The use of asbestos has been banned in Korea since 2003. See: 환경단체 "인천대공원·부천 복합쇼핑몰서 석면 검출" [Environmental group “Detection of asbestos in Incheon Grand Park and Bucheon Shopping Mall”].

Asbestos Audits for Smaller Premises

Jan 11, 2022

New legislation – the Amendment to the Asbestos Safety Control Act – has been proposed by Korea’s National Assembly's Environment and Labor Committee intended to close loopholes which had allowed unsafe practices to continue by owners of buildings with a total floor space of less than 500 m2 including administrative and public institutions, medical and cultural facilities and schools, all of which will now have to undertake asbestos audits to identify the presence and condition of asbestos-containing material on site. See: [e법안 프리즘]윤준병, ‘건축물 석면조사 사각지대 해소법’ 마련 [[e-Bill Prism] Jun-Byung Yoon, ‘A method for resolving the blind spots of asbestos investigation in buildings’].

Provincial Backing for Asbestos Removal

Jan 5, 2022

From December 30, 2021 until February 25, 2022, economically challenged residents in Hampyeong County in Korea’s South Jeolla Province can apply for subsidies to remove toxic asbestos-cement roofing from domestic properties and non-residential buildings such as barns and warehouses; the budget allocated by the Provincial authorities for this phase of its “2022 slate treatment and roof improvement support project” totals 352 million won (US$~295,000). See: 전남 함평군,1급 발암물질 석면 '노후 슬레이트 처리 지원사업’ 접수 [The 'Aging slate Treatment Support Project' for asbestos, a class 1 carcinogen, implemented in Hampyeong-gun, Jeonnam].

Asbestos Removal in Schools

Dec 22, 2021

On December 21, 2021, the Department of Education of the South Korean Province of Chungnam announced that 92 billion won (US$ 78.3m) had been allocated for work to promote school safety in 2022. Amongst the projects being funded by these resources is work to dismantle and remove asbestos from schools – due to be completed by 2026, a year before the Ministry of Education target. Commenting on the raft of improvements which will be made next year, the Superintendent of Education Kim Ji-cheol said: “the health and growth of students and the safety of the educational community must be prioritized.” See: 충남교육청, 안전한 교육환경 조성에 920억원 투자 [The Chungnam Office of Education is investing 92 billion won in the creation of a safe educational environment].

Calls for Government Support for Victims

Nov 8, 2021

At a November 4 press conference at Ulsan City Hall, members of the Ulsan branch of the National Plant Construction Labor Union called upon the Korean Government to support petrochemical workers who had contracted asbestos-related diseases as a result of workplace exposures at the Ulsan Petrochemical Plant. According to the union, in 2018, 14 out of 120 union members tested had contracted asbestos-related lung disease; in 2019, 9 out of 82 members examined were diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. See: 울산플랜트건설노조 “석면 피해 검진·조사 지원 조례 제정하라” [Ulsan Plant Construction Union “Enact ordinance to support asbestos damage inspection and investigation”].

Outreach Initiative for Asbestos Victims

Oct 25, 2021

On October 21 & 22, 2021 a “Healing Camp” took place in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province, Korea to help bolster the psychological health of people suffering from asbestos-related diseases. The event, which has been held every year since 2015, was hosted by the Asbestos Environmental Health Center of Soonchunhyang University, and had a particular emphasis on the mental and physical stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The participants benefited from time spent in the Magoksa forest, recreational activities and health information sessions. See: 충남, 석면 피해자 심리적 안정 돕는다 [Chungcheongnam-do helps asbestos victims to psychologically stabilize].

Asbestos Eradication in Schools

Oct 25, 2021

The removal of asbestos from schools in Korea is not being achieved at a uniform rate, with lower than average rates of eradication in Seoul, Gyeonggi and Daejeon. A document released on October 24, 2021 listed the asbestos removal rates from schools as reported by 17 metropolitan/provincial offices of education; nationwide, the average was 56.2% at the end of June, 2021. Better than average results were achieved in Sejong (99.9%), Jeonbuk and Gangwon (81.7%), and Jeju (71.0%). Korea’s Ministry of Education has set a deadline of 2027 for the complete elimination of asbestos from schools. See: 학교 석면 제거 지역별로 편차 커…서울·경기 절반 안 돼 [Asbestos removal in schools varies widely by region… Less than half for Seoul and Gyeonggi-do].

New Data Identifies Asbestos Hotspots

Oct 20, 2021

Korean campaigners have, for the first time, been able to confirm the deadly repercussions for people living in houses with asbestos-cement roofing using official data. Information collected by officials in the South Korean City of Busan, who have been monitoring the incidence of asbestos cancer since 2011, showed an elevated incidence of asbestos-related disease (ARD) in 11 densely populated areas with asbestos roofing. In these areas, a total of 119 people have contracted ARD. Thirty thousand homes in Busan still have asbestos-containing roofing. See: [취재수첩]119명 석면 질환, 국내 첫 공식 수치 [Reporter's Handbook] Korea's First Official Statistics on 119 Asbestos Disease cases.

Korean Asbestos Hotspots

Oct 4, 2021

The South Korea city of Busan has the second highest number of asbestos patients (16.1%) in the country after Chungnam (36%), according to an analysis undertaken by the Environmental Health Civic Center and Korea Ban Asbestos Network. On October 3, 2021, they announced that, according to government data, 5,295 people received asbestos benefits in Korea between 2011 and 2021. There are 10 abandoned mines in Chungnam which are, it is believed, contaminated with asbestos. Asbestos factories were operational in Busan between the 1970s and 1990s. See: 전국 석면환자 부산 2위…경기·서울보다 많아 [Busan ranked second in the nation for asbestos patients… More than Gyeonggi and Seoul].

Government Failing Asbestos Victims

Oct 1, 2021

At an event at the Press Center of the Chungnam Provincial Office on September 30, 2021, Korean asbestosis victim Nam-eok Lee joined other speakers in calling for new government measures to recognize asbestos victims, improve compensation payments and provide better treatment for victims. Lee told the meeting: “I never worked in an asbestos mine… I lived right next to Gwangcheon Station, and at that time, there was a mountain of asbestos piled up like a mountain. I used to paint on the ground with asbestos.” The Government was not, he said, managing asbestos properly. See: “석면 방치한 정부 책임 커... 차등 없이 지원해야” [The government is responsible for neglecting asbestos… We need support without discrimination.”

Asbestos Eradication in South Korea

Sep 14, 2021

An update on an eradication program of asbestos-cement roofing in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea confirmed that by September 10, toxic roofing had been removed from 3,970 houses and 600+ other structures. Work will be carried out on 2,328 additional properties by the end of the year. The annual budget for this work was increased by 18% in 2021 compared to 2020. The majority of the work is subsidized by the Province as a matter of public and environmental health. Asbestos monitoring and fact-finding by officials continue to be a priority matter for the Province. See: “석면슬레이트 제거로 도민 건강하고 보다나은 환경 조성!” [“Creating a healthier and better environment for residents by removing asbestos slate!”].

Asbestos Victims’ Benefits Uplift

Sep 3, 2021

From January 1, 2022, South Korea’s Ministry of Environment (MoE) will increase benefits to asbestos victims by 5.6% in line with other Government benefit increases; it has been providing benefits such as long-term care allowances (monthly payments for treatment, care and living expenses), funeral expenses, and condolence money, for sufferers of asbestos-related diseases or family members since 2011. Park Yong-gyu, director of the Environment and Health Department of the MoE promised to diversify efforts to find asbestos victims and “continue to expand support for people who have suffered health damage from asbestos.” See: 내년부터 석면피해 구제급여 지급액 5.6% 인상 [Asbestos damage relief benefits will increase by 5.6% from next year].

Asbestos Roof Removal Subsidies

Sep 3, 2021

The latest phase of a US$300,000 (344 million won) program being run by the authorities on the South Korean island of Jeju which subsidizes the removal of asbestos-cement roofing will close to applicants on November 30, 2021. Until then, homeowners can obtain grants of up to US$3,000 to remove asbestos roofing with larger subsidies available to low income households. Between 2011 and 2021, toxic roofing was removed from 7,878 buildings on Jeju Island. The next phase of this program will commence in February, 2022. See: 제주도 '발암물질 석면' 슬레이트 철거 지붕개량 추진 [Jeju Island’s ‘carcinogenic asbestos’ slate removal and roof improvement promotion].

Environmental Survey in Asbestos Hotspot

Aug 17, 2021

This month (August, 2021), Korea’s Chungnam-do Health and Environment Research Institute announced plans to conduct an asbestos survey in Gobuk-myeon, Seosan-si. In the Chungnam region, 76% of the country is made up of rocks that are highly likely to contain asbestos, and abandoned asbestos mines account for 25 out of 38 (66%) of Korea’s derelict asbestos mines. The objective of this project is to prevent damage to the environment and protect the health of residents by controlling regional development activities that could liberate toxic fibers. See: 충남도 보건환경연구원, 서산 고북 일원서 석면 실태조사 [Chungnam-do Health and Environment Research Institute, asbestos survey in Gobuk, Seosan].

Political Dispute Cancels Asbestos Program

Aug 4, 2021

The commencement of asbestos remediation work at a daycare center in Busan was postponed indefinitely on July 26, 2021 due to a lack of funds. Although forty million won (US$35,000) had been earmarked for the work, a dispute in the Nam-gu Council prevented the funds from being released. Parents expressed anger over the cancellation because of the continued hazard the asbestos posed to children, saying both the Congress and Council had evaded their responsibilities. An official from Nam-gu said: “We cannot know whether the construction will be done until the parliament passes the supplementary budget bill.” See: 기초의회 다툼에 어린이집 석면 철거공사 무기 연기 [Asbestos demolition work at daycare center postponed due to dispute in local council].

Asbestos Remediation of Schools

Jul 22, 2021

During the 2021 summer holidays, asbestos safety surveys and remediation work are being carried out in 19 elementary, middle, and high schools in Seoul, under the supervision of personnel from the Seoul Institute of Health and Environment and representatives of the Department of Education. Samples taken after the asbestos removal work has been completed will be examined with state-of-the-art laboratory equipment to ensure the work has been carried out correctly and that the premises are fit for purpose. Any adverse findings will be the cause for follow-up cleaning measures and further tests. See: 서울시, 유·초·중·고 석면 안전성 조사 실시[Seoul conducts asbestos safety survey for elementary, middle, and high schools].

Korean Asbestos Training: Update

Jul 16, 2021

On July 13, 2021, the Korean Association for Asbestos Safety and Health announced that it would support “Intensive Asbestos Safety Management Training'” for municipal workers in 17 local governments across the country who deal with asbestos issues; educating officials in city halls, provincial, county and ward offices. While the main focus of the case-oriented education is practical measures for minimizing hazards in asbestos remediation operations, and asbestos safety management inspections, also covered are updates on asbestos management laws and safety protocols. See: 석면연대, 17개 지자체 대상 석면안전관리 심화 예방교육 지원 [Asbestos Coalition supports in-depth prevention education on asbestos safety management for 17 local governments].

Asbestos Management Training

Jul 12, 2021

On July 9, 2021, the The Jeollabuk-do Office of Education conducted training regarding protocols for the safe management of asbestos in schools. The program, entitled 2021 Summer Vacation Asbestos Dismantling and Removal School Team Training, began at 2 p.m. and was held at the Jeonbuk Education and Culture Center Assembly Hall. Amongst those eligible to attend this session were: staff from 48 schools in the province, officials from the Education Support Office, parents participating in the monitoring group and representatives of private companies engaged in asbestos removal work. See: 석면 모니터단 교육… 안전성·신뢰도 높인다 [Asbestos monitoring team training … Increase safety and reliability].

Hazard of Asbestos-Cement Roofing

Jul 5, 2021

A paper published by Korean researchers on June 28, 2021, which was part of a special issue on Asbestos and Cancer: Exposure from Neighboring Factories and Mines, Contaminated Soil, and Slate Roofs, examined the effects on human health of residential asbestos-cement slate-related exposure. Although the exposure was found to be of medium risk, as there was no threshold for carcinogenicity related to asbestos, this finding was something which needed further consideration, the authors concluded. See: Asbestos Exposure Level and the Carcinogenic Risk Due to Corrugated Asbestos-Cement Slate Roofs in Korea.

New Asbestos Management Ordinance

Jul 3, 2021

A new bill – “Ordinance on Asbestos Safety Management and Support of Busan Metropolitan City” – sponsored by Busan City councillor Jae-young Kim was adopted by Busan Metropolitan City Council on June 30. According to Representative Kim, after the promulgation of the ordinance, councillors will cooperate with the relevant departments of Busan City so that the current asbestos-cement dismantling and disposal project can be carried out without any setback and a fact-finding survey be set up that can comprehensively monitor both the condition of material and fiber levels in the surrounding environment. See: “김재영 시의원, 석면안전관리 및 지원에 관한 조례 추진” [“City councilor Jae-young Kim, promotion of ordinance on asbestos safety management and support”].

Asbestos Found at Site of Building Collapse

Jun 21, 2021

On June 17, 2021, staff from the Gwangju Environmental Movement Association and the Environmental Health and Citizens Center in the South Korean city of Gwangju, the 6th largest city in South Korea, held a press conference at the site of the collapse of a five-story building to announce that asbestos-cement fragments mixed with debris such as concrete had been collected that morning from the site. A week earlier, the Center had warned that asbestos was present at the site of the redevelopment area where the collapse of the building had occurred. See: 환경단체 “광주 철거건물 붕괴 현장에 발암물질 석면 방치돼” [Environmental group: “Carcinogenic asbestos left at the site of the collapse of the demolished building in Gwangju”].

Municipal Asbestos Eradication

Jun 16, 2021

Gwangju Metropolitan City – the sixth largest city in South Korea – has embarked upon an ambitious and progressive program to eradicate the asbestos hazard including support for the: demolition of asbestos-containing buildings, removal of asbestos products, compilation and updating of asbestos surveys, asbestos management programs in public buildings, etc. Businesses as well as private homeowners were eligible to apply for funds to finance eligible projects under a number of municipal schemes. See: 광주시 석면 슬레이트 철거·처리 지원 [Gwangju City asbestos slate removal and treatment support].

Screening for Asbestos-Related Diseases

May 28, 2021

On May 29 and 30 from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m., asbestos-exposed individuals from the South Korean City of Busan will undergo medical screening by staff from the Asbestos Environmental Health Center based at the Yangsan Pusan National University Hospital, as part of a municipal program to achieve earlier diagnoses of asbestos-related diseases. Alternatively, patients can make appointments to be seen on June 26 and 27. If any symptoms are found, patients will be referred for a follow-up examination at the Busan National University Hospital in Yangsan. See: 부산시, 석면피해 주민 건강영향조사 주말 검진 실시 [Health impact survey, Busan City conducts weekend check-ups for asbestos-damaged residents].

Asbestos Hazard at Apartment Complex

May 18, 2021

On May 14, 2021, at a Seoul press conference, representatives of the Incheon Environmental Movement Association announced that ornamental stones used for landscaping an apartment complex in Songdo International City, Incheon contained tremolite asbestos. Environmental groups accused the construction company of the complex of violating the Asbestos Safety Management Act; a complaint has been filed with the police denouncing the company. See: 환경단체, '석면 검출' 인천 송도 아파트 건설사 대표 고발 [Environmental group accuses representative of construction company in Songdo, Incheon over ‘detection of asbestos’].

Toxic Legacy of Asbestos Mining

May 17, 2021

A new paper by Korean researchers – part of a Special Issue on Asbestos and Cancers: Exposure from Neighboring Factories and Mines, Contaminated Soil and Slate Roofs of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health – reported that people living in close proximity to some abandoned asbestos mines had experienced health damage from toxic exposures to naturally occurring asbestos. The researchers recommended that the asbestos contamination be remediated. See: Activity-Based Exposure Levels and Cancer Risk Assessment Due to Naturally Occurring Asbestos for the Residents Near Abandoned Asbestos Mines in South Korea.

Asbestos Eradication Program

May 10, 2021

On May 7, 2021, the Busan Environment Corporation in the South Korean City of Busan held a ceremony to herald the start of a project to eradicate asbestos roofing present in the municipality. The first action of the decontamination program was the removal of toxic roofing containing up to 15% asbestos from 12 buildings in Maji Village. Commenting on this initiative, Chairman of the Corporation Bae Kwang-hyo said: “Starting with Maji Village, the Corporation is planning to expand the asbestos roof improvement pilot village development project…. Removing and improving the old asbestos roofing is best for citizens to live in a safer and more comfortable environment.” See: 부산환경공단 "석면 슬레이트 없는 마을 만든다" [Busan Environment Corporation “Making a village free of asbestos roofing tiles”].

New Health Assessment Program

May 5, 2021

On April 30, 2021, the South Korea City of Busan announced that a program would be launched to provide health assessments for former pupils, staff and local people who had attended Yeonsin Elementary school or lived near the school from 1985 to 1998. The school, which was opened in 1984, was 10 meters away from an asbestos textile factory owned by the Jeil Chemical company. The program – which would provide free assessments and check-ups – would be conducted by staff from the Asbestos Environmental Health Center at the Busan National University Hospital in Yangsan. See: 석면공장 옆 부산 연신초 졸업생·가족 건강영향 조사 [Health impact survey for graduates and families in Yeonsin-cho, Busan, next to the asbestos plant].

Chungnam’s Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Apr 29, 2021

On April 28, 2021, the Yesan Hongseong Environmental Movement Association, the Korea Asbestos Removal Network and the Environmental Health Citizens’ Center held a community discussion in Hongseong, capital of Chungnam Province, to consider the achievements and limitations of the Asbestos Damage Relief Act, operational since 2011. Chungnam is an asbestos hotspot due to the presence of naturally occurring asbestos at multiple locations. According to speaker Yeyong Choi: “Only 5002 asbestos victims have been recognized and compensated for their illnesses in the last 10 years;” [of these] 1,900 (38%) had experienced asbestos exposures in Chungnam.” See: 석면 피해자가 충남에 가장 많은 이유는? [Why are the most asbestos victims in Chungnam?].

A Decade of the Asbestos Damage Relief Act

Apr 26, 2021

On April 28, 2021, the Korea Asbestos Removal Network will hold a community discussion in Hongseong, the capital city of South Korea’s Chungnam Province, to consider the achievements and limitations of the Asbestos Damage Relief Act, operational since 2011. Chungnam is an asbestos hotspot due to the presence of naturally occurring asbestos at multiple locations. Speakers at the meeting will include: Ye-Yong Choi, director of the Environmental Health Citizen Center, Akira Suzuki, executive chairman of the Korea Asbestos Removal Network, and activist and asbestos cancer sufferer Lee Seong-jin. See: 석면피해구제법 시행 10년 성과와 문제점은? [What are the achievements and problems in 10 years of the enforcement of the Asbestos Damage Relief Act].

Asbestos in Schools

Apr 15, 2021

From April 16 until May 4, 2021, the Education Department of the South Korean Province of Gyeonggi-do will conduct an asbestos outreach project to educate teachers, school support staff, students, and parents about the nature of asbestos and the implications of asbestos material present in Gyeonggi-do’s schools. This training program has been operational since 2019. Asbestos eradication work, which began in Gyeonggi-do schools in 2016, has to date, remediated 1,614 schools. See: 발암물질 석면...경기도교육청 '석면 이해 교육'진행페이스북트위터공유하기추천댓글0원고료로 응원원고료로 응원 [Asbestos, a carcinogen...Proceed with Gyeonggi-do Office of Education ‘Asbestos Understanding Education’].

Free Asbestos Medical Care

Apr 12, 2021

A new healthcare program which will start treating patients at high risk of contracting diseases from toxic exposures in asbestos hotspots – near asbestos factories, mines, development sites, or areas with a high density of asbestos roofing – was announced this month by the Asbestos Environmental Health Center at Cheonan Hospital. As of November 8, 2021, members of the public from the South Korean areas of Anyang, Gyeonggi-do, Ulsan Ulju-gun, Cheongju-si, Chungbuk, Pyeongtaek-si, Gyeonggi-do and Nowon-gu (Seoul) will be eligible for free medical check-ups and support. See: 순천향대천안병원, 석면피해우려 지역 실태 조사 [Sooncheonhyang University Cheonan Hospital surveys the actual condition of areas concerned with asbestos damage].

Memorial to Asbestos & Other Victims

Apr 9, 2021

Since 2016, the Environmental Health Citizen Center in South Korea has marked Arbor Day with an activity to honor environmental victims with a tree-planting ceremony. The Center’s efforts on April 5, 2021 were reported on the front-page of two newspapers along with photographs of participants digging holes and planting saplings in Noeul Park, Seoul. The victims being remembered included people who had died of exposures to asbestos and radon as well as those who had been fatally injured through their use of humidifier disinfectants. See: 식목일, 환경피해자 ‘추모의 숲’ 나무심기 [Arbor Day, planting trees in the ‘memorial forest’ for environmental victims].

Asbestos Remediation and Compensation

Mar 31, 2021

Since 2013, Uijeongbu City, Gyeonggi Province has continued to progress efforts to protect the environmental rights of Korean citizens by adopting state-of-the-art management and demolition practices to minimize asbestos exposures. As a result of sustained and proactive efforts to identify asbestos victims, many injured people have received relief benefits and treatment for their injuries. Last year (2020), the asbestos illnesses of 13 people were recognized as a result of which 175 million won (US $155,000) compensation was paid. See: 의정부시, 안전한 석면관리로 쾌적한 생활환경 조성 [Uijeongbu City creates a pleasant living environment through safe asbestos management].

Asbestos Eradication Program

Mar 26, 2021

On March 24, 2021, the Council of Jeonnam Province, South Korea approved the asbestos safety management ordinance bill to facilitate the decontamination of daycare centers, child welfare facilities, and youth welfare facilities units. Funds allocated under this scheme will be made available to remove asbestos-containing roofing and building products and establish mandatory asbestos management programs to prevent children and young people from receiving toxic exposures. See: 전남도, 석면건축자재 사용 어린이집 등에 처리비용 지원한다 [Support for treatment costs in Jeonnam-do and daycare centers using asbestos construction materials.].

Regional Asbestos Center

Mar 22, 2021

On March 16, 2021, an official ceremony marked the Ministry of Environment’s rededication of The Asbestos Environmental Health Center at Cheonan Hospital in South Chungcheong, South Korea. The Center has been operating for thirteen years during which time is has actively worked to improve the quality of life for people with asbestos-related lung diseases. Outreach work by the Center’s staff has examined 6,000 people at high risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) of whom 3,200 were found to have ARDs. See: 순천향대 천안병원, 환경부 지정 석면·권역환경보건센터 현판식 [Signing ceremony for Soonchunhyang University Cheonan Hospital, asbestos-regional environmental health center designated by the Ministry of Environment].

Asbestos in Schools

Mar 11, 2021

On March 9, 2021, results of asbestos air concentration tests in 14 classrooms in Seoul which are being remediated confirmed that work was being conducted safely as per specification of the Asbestos Safety Management Act of the Ministry of Environment. The Korean Government asbestos program has a 2027 deadline to remove asbestos from all schools in order to create a “safe educational environment.” To protect school users from possible exposures, all asbestos remediation work is carried out during school vacations. See: 전국 학교 '석면' 제거 공사 진행은 잘되가나? [Is the national school 'asbestos' removal work going well?].

Asbestos Medical Program

Mar 8, 2021

As of March, 2021, free medical check-ups for 650 individuals who had lived near the asbestos factory in Busan City will be available to ensure detection of abnormalities or diseases related to environmental asbestos exposures at a cost to the City of 136 million won ($US121,000). Its acting mayor Lee Byeong-jin says: “we plan to actively expand health impact investigations targeting local residents who are concerned about asbestos damage so that asbestos disease can be quickly discovered and treated.” Previously, the City had provided free medical screening for residents in other municipal asbestos hotspots. See: 산시, 석면피해 의심 주민 대상 ‘찾아가는 무료건강검진’ 실시 [Free health check-ups for residents suspected of asbestos exposures in Busan].

Asbestos Remediation: Update

Feb 4, 2021

As of February 8, 2021, 705 applications for the removal of asbestos roofing have been approved under a program sponsored by Suncheon City, in the South Korean Province of South Jeolla. Subsidized work will be carried out at hundreds of properties at a total cost to the municipal budget of 2.3 billion won (US$2 million) in order to protect citizens from toxic exposures to asbestos roofing. The 2021 asbestos removal program – which is 43% bigger than the one in 2020 – will facilitate remediation of 435 houses, 235 non domestic properties such as warehouses and agricultural buildings, and 35 properties housing vulnerable people. See: 순천시, 1급 발암물질 ‘석면 슬레이트’ 철거에 박차 [Suncheon City accelerates the demolition of ‘Asbestos Slate,’ a first-class carcinogen].

Asbestos Monitoring and Safety

Feb 1, 2021

To protect inhabitants of Seoul from toxic exposures to asbestos, the Seoul Institute for Health and Environment – a specialized asbestos analysis organization certified by the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Employment and Labor – is tightening up on inspections at sites, such as underground stations, regional children's centers, and private academies, where there is a high risk of asbestos exposures in 2021. Results of tests to measure airborne asbestos fiber levels are uploaded to websites run by local as well as municipal authorities. See: 서울시, 지하역사와 학원 등 공기 중 석면 조사 확대 [Expanded investigation of asbestos in air such as that found Seoul, underground stations and academies].

Asbestos Removal Project

Jan 14, 2021

A scheme to provide financial support for homeowners to remove asbestos roofing from 225 properties has been announced by authorities in Yeonggwang-gun, a county in South Korea’s South Jeolla Province. The 2021 allocation for the project made by the county was 90 million won (US$82,000); all applications must be made to the Urban Environment Division between January 12 and February 26, 2021. Priority will be given to applications for remediation work on vacant and dilapidated houses. See: 영광군, 석면 슬레이트지붕 철거 지원사업 추진 [ Yeonggwang-gun, asbestos roof demolition support project].

Asbestos Remediation of Schools

Jan 4, 2021

The Department of Education of the South Korean Province of Gyeongbuk has set a 2027 deadline for the removal of asbestos from all its schools; the annual budget allocated for this work is 18 billion won/year (~US$16.6m/yr). Under this program, asbestos remediation at 91 schools was accomplished in 2020, with work due to be undertaken in 2021 at 79 schools. Progress is monitored by a collation of groups including school officials, parents, experts and representatives of civil society groups. See: 경북교육청, 2027년까지 학교 건축물 석면 제거...매년 180억 이상 투자 [Gyeongbuk Office of Education to remove asbestos from school buildings by 2027, investing more than 18 billion won annually].

Asbestos Removal in Schools

Dec 29, 2020

On December 24, 2020, the Ulsan City Office of Education in Ulsan, South Korea announced that during the winter vacation replacement of asbestos ceilings would be undertaken in 11 schools. The schools where remediation work was scheduled included 3 elementary, 6 middle and 2 high schools. Briefing sessions for parents, students, and faculty had been held before the work was begun during which the state-of-the-art techniques which would be used were explained. See: 울산시교육청, 코로나19에도 차질없이 학교 석면천장 교체 [Ulsan City Office of Education replaces school's asbestos ceiling without disruption even with Covid-19].

No Asbestos in Schools

Dec 18, 2020

The Seoul Institute of Health and Environment (SIHE) and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education have agreed to create a safe school environment free from asbestos contamination. During school vacations, SIHE operatives will conduct surveys to measure the concentration of asbestos in the indoor air of kindergartens, elementary, middle, and high schools where asbestos demolition and removal work had been completed to verify that the schools were fit for use. State-of-the-art equipment will be used for the analysis and testing, including transmission and scanning electron microscopes. See: 서울시보건환경연구원-시교육청 협력해 학교 석면 안전관리 강화 [Strengthening safety management of school asbestos in cooperation with SIHE and City Office of Education].

Asbestos in Schools

Dec 14, 2020

Despite efforts to remediate schools in the South Korean city of Anyang, in Gyeonggi Province, asbestos contamination remains in the majority of elementary, middle and high schools. Removal work at the city’s schools has been ongoing since 2017 with funding from the Provincial Office of Education; budgets for this program were as follows: (~US$3.7 million) 4 billion won (bw) in 2017, 4.1 bw in 2018, 3 bw in 2019 and 1.2 bw in 2020. The deadline set by the Provincial Office of Education for the completion of the asbestos decontamination program is 2027. See: 안양지역 각급 학교 석면제거율 38%…“조속 처리”vs“점진 처리” [38% of asbestos removed at schools in Anyang area... “Rapid processing” vs. “Progressive processing”].

Asbestos in Schools Remediation: Too Slow

Nov 13, 2020

South Korean politician Lee Kwang-il representing Yeosu City has criticized the Jeonnam Provincial Office of Education for the slow pace with which it has progressed the decontamination of schools in Yeosu City. To date, only 36% of the affected buildings have been remediated and, he said, at this rate it will be impossible to comply with the 2027 deadline set for the completion of the schools’ asbestos removal program by the Ministry of Education. See: 이광일 전남도의원, 학교 석면제거 부진 해소방안 마련 촉구 [Jeonnam Provincial Clinic urges Lee Kwang-il to come up with measures to resolve the sluggish removal of asbestos in schools].

Asbestos Hot Potato

Nov 10, 2020

The legacy of an abandoned village in Busan, South Korea has been an environmental nightmare for local people. Residents who deserted the locale left behind toxic waste including asbestos-cement building material which continues to litter the site, according to a recent newspaper exposé which identified asbestos fibers in the rubble. Municipal buildings such as a daycare facility, social welfare center, high school and residential housing are within close proximity of the site. Authorities contacted by the reporter refused to accept responsibility for the situation. See: [취재후] 어린이집 옆 야산의 비밀…10년째 발암물질 ‘석면’ 방치 [After coverage. The secret of the hillside next to the daycare center… Carcinogenic substance, asbestos neglected for 10 years].

Provincial Asbestos Action Plan

Nov 3, 2020

A substantial allocation of funding for the removal of asbestos from schools throughout the Korea Province of Gyeonggi has been included in the 2021 budget of the Gyeonggi Province Office of Education which was published on October 28, 2020. Out of a total of 131.4 billion won (~US$116m), 24.9 billion won (~US$22m) was ring-fenced for asbestos removal and remediation of 40 Gyeonggi school buildings and 2,505 classrooms in 2021. See: "무상교복·석면제거 등"… 경기도·도교육청·시군, 내년 3천500억 투입한다 [“Free school uniform, asbestos removal, etc.”... Gyeonggi-do, Provincial Office of Education, Si-Gun, will invest 350 billion won next year].

Asbestos in Schools

Oct 8, 2020

Pursuant to a national project to make schools in Korea fit for purpose, asbestos contamination in half the country’s 10,000 elementary, middle and high schools has been remediated. According to Representative Kim Byung-wook of the National Assembly's Board of Education: "It is important to provide high-quality education to children, but it is also very important to create an environment in which children can live in a safe and comfortable environment. We need to secure it,” he said. See: 전국 초중고 석면 제거율 절반 [Half of asbestos removal in elementary, middle and high schools achieved nationwide].

Addressing Korea’s Asbestos Legacy

Oct 7, 2020

On September 28, 2020, it was announced that a business agreement had been signed by the Incheon Metropolitan City Corporation and the Asbestos Damage Prevention Center to reduce toxic asbestos exposures and raise asbestos awareness in Incheon via the introduction of new management supervision tools to prevent asbestos damage, training for operatives working in the field of asbestos and collaboration on projects to prevent asbestos damage. See: 인천도시공사, 석면피해예방 업무협약(MOU) 체결 [Incheon City Corporation, asbestos damage prevention business agreement (MOU) signed].

Poor Remediation Efforts

Oct 2, 2020

In a recent speech made to the National Assembly of South Korea, Representative Ja Lim, from the North Gyeongsang constituency, condemned Korea’s failure to expeditiously deal with the health hazards posed by the continuing presence of asbestos-containing products within the national infrastructure. Rep. Lim said: “The victims and their families are still suffering a lot from asbestos… It is urgent to improve the slow speed of [asbestos] remediation through expansion of the capacity to remove goods containing asbestos, a first-class carcinogen.” See: 임이자 의원, 석면 슬레이트 건축물 5년간 8.8% 처리불과 [Rep. Lim Isa, 8.8% of asbestos slate buildings remediated].

Schools’ Asbestos Eradication Program

Oct 1, 2020

Work was carried out – commissioned by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education – during the Summer holidays of 2020 to remediate asbestos at 18 schools in the Korean capital. Follow-up investigations and testing revealed that the indoor air at 112 locations in the schools was within acceptable standards. This program was the first of its kind in Korea. See: 서울시내 석면 해체·제거 공사 학교 모두 석면으로부터 안전 [Asbestos demolition and removal construction schools in Seoul are all safe from asbestos].

Asbestos Crackdown

Sep 28, 2020

Investigators in Korea’s Gyeonggi Province who inspected 359 asbestos demolition sites between August 10 and 28, 2020 identified 27 incidents where amounts varying from 40 to 2,000 kilograms of asbestos-containing waste had been illegally collected, transported or dumped according to an announcement made on September 24, 2020 by the Gyeonggi Special Judicial Police Corps. Cases are being brought against all those companies responsible. See: 발암물질 폐석면 불법 처리 업체들 무더기 적발 [Illegal asbestos fly tipping company found].

NGOs’ Asbestos Alert

Sep 25, 2020

At a press conference in Seoul, Korea on September 21, 2020, spokepersons for the non-governmental organizations the Gwangju Environmental Movement Association and the Environmental Health Citizens’ Center announced that as a result of a 3-month investigation they could confirm the presence of tremolite asbestos fibers in cement and mortar products being sold in Korea. The NGOs urged the government to act not only on banning sales of these deadly products but also on identifying and protecting at-risk workers. See: 환경단체 “시판중인 백시멘트·황토모르타르에서 석면 검출” [Environmental organization “Detection of asbestos in commercially available white cement and loose mortar”].

Building Diagnostic Capacity

Sep 22, 2020

On September 19, 2020, the Korean Environmental Industry and Technology Institute in collaboration with the Korean Radiological Society conducted an online training workshop for radiologists on the subject of: Reading Asbestos Disease Imaging. The initiative was part of national efforts to increase capacity and develop expertise so that earlier diagnoses of asbestos-related diseases are made. Successful participants will be eligible to work for the “Computed Tomography Photo Reading Advisory Group” that supports the Asbestos Damage Judgment Committee. See: 환경산업기술원, 석면질병 영상판독 교육 [Environmental Industry and Technology Institute, asbestos disease image reading education].

Asbestos Remediation: Safe or Not?

Sep 16, 2020

Operations to remove asbestos from schools in the South Korean Province of Gyeongnam during the summer school holidays have been widely criticized by environmental groups, parents and concerned citizens who claim that operatives did not not minimize the release of asbestos fibers into the environment. On September 8, 2020, there was a demonstration in front of the Gyeongnam Provincial Office of Education over the unsafe practices. At the heart of the protest was dissatisfaction over the use of the contentious “asbestos glove bag method” to prevent atmospheric contamination. See: [사설] 끝없이 되풀이되는 학교석면 부실 철거 [Editorial: Endlessly recurring school asbestos demolition].

Urban Asbestos Removal Program

Sep 1, 2020

Gunsan City in South Korea’s North Jeolla Province is progressing plans to protect public health by the implementation of a program to subsidize the removal of asbestos-containing roofing tiles. This initiative – which has been financed since 2013 by the Ministry of Environment – has in 2020 supported remediation efforts by 290 households with an increased budget of 985 million won (US$~835,000). Interested homeowners submit applications for funding to remove and dispose of asbestos roofing to the municipality. The maximum allowable subsidy is 3.44 million won (~US$2900) per household. See: 군산시, 노후 슬레이트 처리 지원 사업 추진 [Gunsan City promotes support project for processing old slate ].

Interview: Dr. Domyung Paek

Aug 25, 2020

On August 22, 2020, a feature article was published in Korea about the work of Dr. Domyung Paek, a human rights campaigner, scientist and medical researcher who has fought for the rights of Korean victims of occupational diseases for over 30 years. Dr. Paek has been pivotal in mobilizing action on a variety of issues, including the hazards of asbestos exposures, injuries caused to semiconductor workers and the deadly risks posed by the use of humidifier disinfectants – taking part in public protests, speaking at press conferences and travelling internationally to collaborate with campaigners as well as medical colleagues. See: ‘연구활동가’ 백도명, ‘과학의 이름’으로 약자의 곁에 서다 [‘Research Activist' Domyung Paek, stands up for the weak under 'the name of science’].

Asbestos Removal Subsidies

Aug 17, 2020

On August 13, 2020, the authorities in the South Korean county of Jangseong-gun announced that they would be continuing to support local efforts to remediate asbestos roofing on local properties. Since 2011, the county has supported the removal of asbestos tiles on 2,580 homes as well as on business premises, including warehouses, factories and barns. In 2020, applications for funding to remove asbestos on 316 properties have been approved; 255 of the subsidized projects have already been completed. See: 장성군, 노후 석면 슬레이트 처리 지원 [Jangseong-gun to support the removal of deteriorating asbestos roofing].

Asbestos Crackdown

Aug 4, 2020

Authorities in the South Korean Province of Gyeonggi will be cracking down on infringements of demolition industry asbestos regulations and the illegal disposal of asbestos waste between August 10 and 28, 2020 according to an announcement on August 4 by the Gyeonggi-do Special Judicial Police Agency. Unlike previous investigations in cities such as Anseong and Siheung, this initiative will target illegal operations throughout the province. At least 4,000 structures in Gyeonggi contain asbestos according to government figures released in June 2020. See:  특사경, 폐석면 무단투기·매립 등 불법 처리행위 집중 수사 [Investigation of illegal handling activities such as special shipments, illegal dumping and recycling of asbestos waste].

Metro Refurbishment: Asbestos Risks

Jul 23, 2020

Following a morning press conference held in Seoul, Korea by the Environmental Health Citizens’ Center (EHCC) – an NGO which brings together experts, activists and victims to address the pollution crisis in Asia – on July 20, 2020, journalists were invited on an accompanied tour to City Hall Station to observe first-hand the dangers posed by the liberation of tremolite asbestos during refurbishment work on Metro Line 2 in the Seoul Subway. EHCC spokesmen urged that all work at this site be stopped immediately and that an emergency safety investigation be undertaken as a matter of priority. See: 환경보건시민센터 활동 언론보도 [Press Release from Environmental Health Citizen Center].

Occupational Asbestos Education

Jul 15 2020

The Asbestos Victims’ Prevention Center – a new center for the training of asbestos removal operatives, supervisors and others – has opened in the city of Incheon in north-western South Korea. The Center provides on-the-job training to update knowledge and skills of first-line technicians and managers of asbestos removal projects. Similar initiatives in other regional centers are also working to raise industry standards; they include: the Chungnam Asbestos Victims Prevention Center and the Daejeon Asbestos Victims Prevention Center. See: (사)석면피해예방지원센터, 전국 석면종사자 대상 직무교육 나서[Asbestos Victims Prevention Center, to provide job training for asbestos (removal) workers nationwide].

Asbestos Remediation Program

Jul 13, 2020

The authorities of Jeju Island – the largest island in South Korea – have reported a huge increase in the number of applications for financial support for the removal of asbestos roofing from business and domestic properties. A spokesman for the provincial government reported on July 12, 2020 that by the end of June, a total of 1,072 requests had been received since February 5, 2020; 648 had been approved. An average of 228 applications – which came from claimants in 40+ towns and villages – were made per month. Up to the end of 2019, aid had been given for the removal of asbestos roofing from 6,553 buildings; in 2020, funding had been allocated for 1,590 grants. See: 제주, 석면 슬레이트 지붕 철거 지원사업 신청자 급증 [Jeju, asbestos slate roof demolition support applications surge].

Pioneering Asbestos Program

Jul 7, 2020

On July 1, 2020, the authorities in the South Korean Province of South Chungcheong announced plans to conduct an asbestos health survey, in collaboration with personnel from the Cheonan Hospital of Soonchunnhyang University, of residents in neighborhoods near a former asbestos mine. Residents over the age of 40 in Hongseong, Boryeong and Cheongyang who lived for more than 10 years within a 2 km radius of the mine will be interviewed, screened and medically examined as appropriate with follow-up testing conducted of those with symptoms. See: 충남, 석면 노출 우려지역 건강영향조사 재개 [Chungnam resumes health impact survey on asbestos-exposed areas].

Asbestos Program for Military

Jun 29, 2020

On June 29, 2020, Korea’s defense ministry said it would eliminate asbestos from all military facilities to safeguard the health and safety of service personnel. A national asbestos audit in 2019 found that ~11,600 military structures were contaminated with asbestos, of which 5,450 buildings – such as barracks and restaurants inside bases – were in use every day. The target for removing asbestos from these structures is 2022, with the remediation of the others to be accomplished by 2025. Funding allocated for removal work in 2020 was US$58+ million with at least the same set aside per year for 2021-2025. See: Defense ministry to remove asbestos from all military structures by 2025.

Asbestos Fly-Tipping in Korea

May 30, 2020

On May 27, 2020, a 25-ton dump truck was spotted by scores of residents in the forested outskirts of Jinju, a city in the South Gyeongsang Province of South Korea. Suspicions over the activities of the truck’s operators were reported to the police and as a result three men were arrested and charged under the Industrial Waste Management Act with the illegal disposal of 100 tonnes of asbestos-containing industrial waste. The truck had counterfeit markings on it identifying it as belonging to a government agency. The Jinju city cleaning department was commissioned to remove the toxic debris and remediate the area. See: 산업폐기물 1급 발암물질 '석면' 몰래 버리다 주민신고로 덜미 [Industrial waste, first-class carcinogen, ‘asbestos’].

Asbestos Legacy

Feb 6, 2020

Exposures experienced 20 years ago due to asbestos remediation work at Camp Walker – a U.S. army base in South Korea – have been blamed by veterans for causing serious diseases. Army inspections carried out in 1996 of bases in Korea found asbestos in 200 buildings. According to a report in Stars and Stripes – a U.S. military newspaper – in May 2000: “Experts say dozens of buildings on bases across South Korea might be contaminated with broken pieces of asbestos resulting in crushed, airborne fragments that can be deadly if inhaled.” From 1994 to 2000, cancer sufferer David Sewell worked at the base and was there during the removal operations. See: Army veterans blame health problems on asbestos removal at South Korean base.

Causation of Colorectal Cancer.

Oct 18, 2019

Research by Korean scientists confirmed the link between occupational asbestos exposure and colorectal cancer mortality. “There was,” they wrote “a significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer mortality among workers exposed to asbestos occupationally…This implies that the risk of colorectal cancer mortality increases as the level of asbestos exposure rises.” Concluding their article, the authors reaffirmed that their findings indicated that occupational exposure to asbestos was a risk factor for colorectal cancer. See: Exposure to asbestos and the risk of colorectal cancer mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Asbestos Health Camp

Sep 23, 2019

Efforts to support South Korea’s asbestos victims continued at a healing camp held on September 20, 2019 in Chungnam Province which was attended by the regional governor Yang Seung-jo. The objectives of the camp, which was hosted by the Province and the Asbestos Environmental Health Center, included awareness monitoring amongst the asbestos victims and improving psychological stability via measures such as health classes and cultural visits. The Governor pledged to “promptly dismantle and remove existing risk factors,” to prevent further exposures to asbestos. See: 양승조 지사 “석면 피해 예방·구제 투트랙 정책 펼 것” [Gov. Yang Seung-jo says, "asbestos damage relief measures will be expanded"].

Korea’s Asbestos Legacy

Jul 24, 2019

A commentary on the website of Korea’s Science Times considered the price ordinary citizens had paid for the use of asbestos in Korea and highlighted the disturbing fact that the vast majority (93%) of those who contracted asbestos-related diseases had been exposed non-occupationally. Half of the injured had received toxic exposures living near the asbestos mines in Chungcheongnam-do or living in an area in which naturally occurring asbestos was found. Considering the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, the author of this text predicted that Korea’s asbestos epidemic would continue for decades to come. See: 불에 타지 않는 ‘석면’과 ‘살라만드라’ [Fireproof ‘Asbestos’ and ‘the Salamandra’ (a Greek mythical animal)].

Protecting At-Risk Populations

Jul 16, 2019

On July 15, 2019, work began on an “asbestos health impact survey” in the Gangjeong-ri area in South Korea’s Gyeonggi-do Province. One hundred and fifty local residents over 50 years old who had lived within a 2 km radius of an a abandoned asbestos mine for 10 years or more were interviewed by staff from the Asan Medical Center, Cheonan Hospital, Soonchunhyang University. This initiative was part of a program to minimize the effects of historical asbestos exposures under the country’s Asbestos Damage Relief Act. See: 청양군, 석면 피해주민 보호 [Cheongyang, asbestos damage protection].

Asbestos Hearing in Korea

Jul 5, 2019

On July 3, 2019, an asbestos hearing was held at the Congressional office building in Seoul; the event was organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea. In attendance were officials from 4 relevant ministries. Asbestos victims from all over the country, including a 29 year old male mesothelioma victim, gave testimony about the impact of asbestos exposures on their lives. To date, 4,000 cases of asbestos-related disease have been recognized by the Government. Asbestos was mined in Korea at 17 mines, including the largest asbestos mine in Asia. More than 10,000 schools still contain asbestos. See: '석면 질환' 잠복기 최소 10년 이상…피해자 증가 우려 [‘Asbestos disease’ incubation period at least 10 years ... Concerns about increased victims].

Forest Retreat for Asbestos Victims

Jun 26, 2019

A “healing camp” was held on June 25 & 26, 2019 in South Chungcheong Province in the west of South Korea for 70 Korean victims of asbestos-related diseases and family members. The event, which was run by the Asian Environmental Health Center of Soonchunhyang University, took place in a forest resort. Participants were able to relax in a soothing environment, visit local tourist attractions and develop new techniques for managing their illnesses. Another camp will be held later in the year for asbestos victims from other parts of South Korea. See: 순천향대 천안병원, 충남도 석면피해자 힐링캠프 개최 [Soonchunhyang University Cheonan Hospital, Chungnam Asbestos victims’ healing camp held].

The Human Cost of Asbestos Use

Sep 15, 2018

A paper, which has recently been published, estimated that the occupational burden of disease (OBD) of asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) in Korea between 1998 and 2013 was: 4,492 deaths due to all ARDs and 71,763.7 potential years of life lost (PHYLL). The study showed that although asbestos use in Korea has been banned, the incidence of ARDs is increasing. The authors recommended that to reduce OBDs of ARDs in Korea, measures should be taken to achieve the early detection and proper management of ARDs. See: Occupational Burden of Asbestos-Related Diseases in Korea, 1998–2013: Asbestosis, Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Laryngeal Cancer, and Ovarian Cancer.

Asbestos Remediation in Schools

Aug 3, 2018

The Ministry of Education for Gyeongbuk Province, Korea has embarked upon asbestos removal work at 50 small schools during the summer vacation; the premises chosen each have relatively small amounts of contamination which can be remediated over a short period of time. Once the work has been completed, a monitoring team – composed of school officials, parents, external experts and representatives of private organizations – will inspect the premises. If there are findings of contamination, the removal process will be repeated until confirmation is received that the remediation work has succeeded. See: 여름방학 기간 학교 석면제거 [Eliminating asbestos at schools during the summer].

Asbestos Removal in Schools

Jul 23, 2018

During the Summer holidays, Korea’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Employment and Labor have ordered that asbestos be removed from classrooms in 641 schools nationwide. As traces of asbestos have been found even after removal operations had been completed, the government has mandated that the steel frames that held the asbestos in place be dismantled. Strict measures to prevent the liberation of asbestos during this remediation work will be enforced. The process will be monitored by technical experts and parents to ensure compliance with safety protocols. See: Steel Asbestos Frames to be Removed from Classrooms.

Screening At-Risk Individuals

Jul 17, 2018

Under Korean legislation, the authorities are obliged to carry out periodic medical screenings of people over 40 years old who lived within one kilometre of asbestos mining or processing operations as well as people who lived near shipyards. On July 16-19, 2018, clinics will be held in various districts of Changwon City in South Korea’s Gyeongnam Province at which basic health check-ups will be conducted. If required, follow-up examinations including chest CTs and pulmonary function tests will be performed. See: 창원시, 석면피해 의심지역 주민 건강영향조사 실시[Changwon City conducts a survey on the health of residents suspected of asbestos damage].

Ban Asbestos Demos

Jul 4, 2018

Korean, Indonesian and Japanese asbestos activists held protests outside the Russian, Chinese and Kazakhstan embassies in Seoul, Korea on July 3, 2018, urging these countries to end the mining of deadly asbestos. At a press conference, the demonstrators explained that the majority of asbestos exported from these producing nations is sent to Asian countries which have few, if any, regulations for preventing deadly exposures to workers or members of the public. See: 환경단체 “러시아·중국·카자흐스탄, 죽음의 광물, 석면 채광 중단해야 [Environmental groups “Russia, China, Kazakhstan, should stop deadly asbestos mining”].

Asian Victims’ Mobilization

Jul 2, 2018

This week a series of events is taking place in Seoul organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Participating in this program are representatives from victims’ groups, campaigners and technical experts from Korea, Japan and Indonesia. Starting off the week, will be a symposium held at Seoul National University on July 2. From July 4 to 8, Japanese and Korean asbestos cancer patients and their supporters will have the opportunity for discussions in Seoul, Kwangchun and Pusan. See: Korean Poster.

Banning Asbestos in Korea

Jan 26, 2018

A paper has been published as part of the Special Issue “Global Panorama of National Experiences in Public Health Actions to Ban Asbestos” detailing the five stages and many actions that were required before Korea succeeded in banning asbestos. An analysis of the role played by multiple stakeholders is undertaken. As in the UK and elsewhere “after the asbestos ban, those who had imported raw asbestos turned to asbestos removal and protection services as they had hands-on experience about where asbestos was installed.” See: The Asbestos Ban in Korea from a Grassroots Perspective: Why Did It Occur?

Award for Ban Asbestos Campaigner

Dec 23, 2017

At a Seoul meeting attended by representatives of 20+ environmental NGOs and academia on December 21, the winner of the prestigious Rachel Lee Jung-Lim Award was announced as Brazilian engineer and ban asbestos campaigner Fernanda Giannasi. The event was hosted by the Environmental Health Citizens Center and sponsored by the Environmental Foundation and the Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement. The citation on the plaque for Ms. Giannasi noted her sustained efforts on behalf of asbestos victims in the face of threats and intimidation. Rachel Lee Jung-Lim was a ban asbestos campaigner who died of mesothelioma in 2011. See: 환경보건시민센터 보도자료 [Environmental Health Citizen Center Press Release].

Asbestos in Schools

Oct 14, 2017

Yesterday (October 13, 2017), Korean lawmakers grilled Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung about the government’s failure to address widespread asbestos contamination of small – under 1,000 square meters in size – educational premises and after-school institutions, 53% of which contain asbestos building products. Defending the Government, the Minister said that efforts were being made to retrofit buildings used by children to ensure that they were free of asbestos. A study conducted in July found that 47 out of the 53 schools buildings inspected contained asbestos. See: Gov't asbestos management draws fire from lawmaker.

Priority: Asbestos in Schools

Sep 22, 2017

At a press conference on September 21, 2017, Korea’s Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon called for immediate measures to ensure that Korea’s schools were asbestos-free after reports that contamination had been found in many classrooms even after remediation work had been carried out. During a weekly government policy coordination meeting, the PM announced that: “The education, labor and environment ministries are jointly carrying out an inspection into whether asbestos still remains at 1,226 schools that have carried out asbestos-removal projects, and asbestos was found in many of them.” See: PM calls for measures to ensure school classrooms free of asbestos.

Parents’ Asbestos Protest

Sep 5, 2017

Hundreds of parents protested the asbestos hazard posed to children studying at Gwacheon Gumun Elementary School by a massive reconstruction project at an apartment complex in Gwacheon city in the Seoul National Capital Area. On August 28, the Environment and Citizens’ Center (the Center) held a press conference to quantify the potential asbestos fallout from the rebuilding project. The contents of survey reports and videos of the contentious project were presented to the parents by health and safety experts from the Center. See: 과천 엄마들 "재건축에 초등학교로 석면 들어와" 기자회견 [Gwacheon mothers “Asbestos enters elementary school in reconstruction” press conference].

Asbestos Mortality Report

Jun 5, 2017

According to a report by the Asian Citizen’s Center for Environment and Health (ACCEH), in the last decade 2,467 cases of asbestos-related diseases were recognized by Korea’s Environment Ministry; 1,006 (~40%), of victims died. Asbestos was widely used in construction materials. Despite a ban, there are still a large number of contaminated buildings which pose an imminent health threat, especially considering the frequency of reconstruction and renovation work. The ACCEH is calling for “an independent investigative body” to consider these matters and take action. See: Almost 10,000 Koreans suffered environmental diseases in 10 yrs: report.

Tightening Asbestos Controls

Feb 22, 2017

On February 21, 2017, the Government of South Korea announced tighter regulations for asbestos management to safeguard individuals attending or working at private after-school academies from hazardous exposures; the new regulations will be introduced this week. To improve monitoring efforts, the introduction of a biannual air quality test has been mandated on smaller facilities which, until now, had been exempt from these requirements. Non-compliance with the asbestos regulations can be punished with a fine of up to ten million won (US$8750). See: Gov't tightens asbestos management rules.

Asbestos Protest at Brazilian Embassy

Jan 12, 2017

On January 11, 2017, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) held its fourth ban asbestos protest outside the Seoul embassy of an asbestos-producing country. In previous weeks, demonstrations were held at the embassies of Russia (December 21), China (December 28) and Kazakhstan (January 4). This week it was at the Brazilian embassy. Asbestos victims, environmentalists, medical experts, and occupational health activists displayed colourful banners calling for Brazil to stop mining deadly asbestos, held an outdoor press conference and delivered a letter calling for an end to the mining, consumption and export of asbestos. See: Photo of January 11, 2017 protest.

Demonstration at Kazakhstan Embassy

Jan 5, 2017

Members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO), having held protests outside the embassies of Russia and China – the biggest global asbestos producers – in December 2016, yesterday mounted a demonstration outside the Kazakhstan embassy in Seoul. The BANKO press conference and protest were filmed by TV crews from Korea and Kazakhstan. The national TV station of Kazakhstan - KHABAR24 – interviewed two Korean asbestos victims. In 2009, Korea banned the use of asbestos. Experts predict that thousands of people will die from asbestos diseases over the next two decades. See: Photos (2) of January 4, 2017 demonstration.

Ban Asbestos Protests

Jan 2, 2017

On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) embarked on the first of a series of demonstrations outside the embassies of asbestos-producing countries with a well-attended event in front of the Russian Embassy in central Seoul. Signs with slogans such as “Stop RUSSIA! Asbestos Mining!,” “STOP, DEATH Export,” “Asbestos Free Asia” and “Asbestos Free World” were held aloft during the event which was covered by TV crews. A similar protest was mounted in front of the Chinese Embassy on December 28 with two more such actions planned for January. See: Photo from December 21, 2016 demonstration at the Russian Embassy in Seoul.

Environmental Asbestos Exposures

Oct 17, 2016

As the number of cases of mesothelioma in Korea continues to rise, research has been undertaken to identify geographical locations with high levels of contamination caused either by naturally occurring materials or the processing and/or the manufacture of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos hotspots were identified in Chungnam, Gyeonggi, Busan, Gyeongnam, Gyeonggi and Daejeon. The information on environmental asbestos exposures will, say the authors of this paper, be useful for establishing individual causal relationships as well as medical treatment plans. See: Environmental asbestos exposure sources in Korea.

Asbestos Safety Management Act Revisions

Jul 15, 2016

Concerns over the large amounts of asbestos within the national infrastructure has led the Government to announce measures to strengthen mandatory asbestos management protocols during the dismantling and reconstruction of buildings in Korea. The new safeguards are incorporated within revisions to the Asbestos Safety Management Act and will take effect on August 15, 2016. According to the Incheon Metropolitan City office of Education, up to 130 billion won is needed to remove asbestos from schools in Incheon. The price for the eradication from the Korean built environment is unknown. See: Korea to tighten asbestos controls.

Measuring Environmental Asbestos Hazard

Jan 8, 2016

Research undertaken to provide measurement tools for government decision makers has been published; the study “quantified the amount of asbestos discharged naturally from [asbestos-cement] slates and visualized the amount of asbestos discharged naturally from slates in administrative districts in Korea.” Maps produced by plotting levels of contamination showed that the pollution in the Ulsan region was higher than elsewhere. Ulsan is in the south-east of the Republic of Korea and is regarded as the country’s industrial powerhouse. See: Visualizing distribution of naturally discharged asbestos fibers in Korea through analysis of thickness changes in asbestos cement slates.

National Diagnostic Standards Reviewed

Jan 6, 2016

Korea lagged behind other countries in setting standards for the recognition of occupational asbestos cancers. Initially, outdated regulations from Japan were followed; standards adopted in 2013 were more inclusive, but some requirements were left “unspecific and vague.” An academic paper just published by Korean researchers suggests the implementation of specific measures and criteria including CT scans and high levels of medical expertise in making diagnoses of these cancers. See: Review of carcinogenicity of asbestos and proposal of approval standards of an occupational cancer caused by asbestos in Korea.

Award for Japanese Asbestos Activists

Dec 21, 2015

Every year, to mark the anniversary of the death of ban asbestos activist and mesothelioma victim Rachel Lee Jung-Lim, campaigners in Korea bestow an award in her name to campaigners whose work has made an impact on the global struggle for asbestos justice. Today (December 21, 2015) the work of Furukawa Kazuko, Kataoka Akihiko and Iida Hiroshi has been recognized at a ceremony in Seoul. Their collective efforts have improved conditions for Japan’s asbestos victims and helped raise awareness of the asbestos epidemic throughout Asia. Mrs. Kazuko was present to accept the award at the ceremony on behalf of all the recipients. See: Photo of Plaque.

Asbestos Mortality in Korea

Nov 17, 2015

On Monday, November 9, 2015 members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO), joined by a Japanese asbestos activist, mounted a public awareness outreach event in the country’s capital to highlight the Korean incidence of asbestos-related mortality; one person is dying every week from these diseases. More than one hundred and thirty victims from five regions took part in a mock funeral ceremony which attracted considerable media attention. On April 1, 2015, Korea achieved a total asbestos ban by removing the final derogations allowing its use for asbestos-containing gaskets and insulation for submarines and missiles. See: Photos of mock funeral ceremony.

Epidemiologists Quantify Epidemic

Nov 1, 2015

A research project has developed the first model for predicting mortality from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma and asbestosis in Korea. Having quantified the amount of asbestos used, the scientists calculated that between 2014 to 2036, up to 3,476 people could die; by 2031, it was predicted that a maximum of 555 deaths would occur from exposures to asbestos-containing slate buildings. These figures exclude deaths from other asbestos-related cancers and respiratory conditions. See: Predicting the mortality from asbestos-related diseases based on the amount of asbestos used and the effects of slate buildings in Korea.

Provincial Remediation Program

Sep 2, 2015

On August 31, 2015, the provincial government of North Gyeongsang in eastern South Korea announced that it would undertake a multimillion dollar program (90 billion Korean won) to remove asbestos-cement roofing from 30,000 houses by 2021. According to the government’s timetable, the asbestos-cement roofing on 3,000-4,000 houses will be replaced each year. This will leave a shortfall of around 6,000 properties by 2021. Korea has a strict ban on asbestos and financial subsidies have been offered to remove contaminated material. See: North Gyeongsang Province to Remove Slate Roofs Full of Asbestos.

Asia’s Asbestos Challenge

Jun 8, 2015

The International Commission on Occupational Health held the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health in Seoul from May 31 to June 5, 2015. On, June 4, there a workshop entitled: Asbestos Problems in Asia was addressed by key regional asbestos experts including: Professor Domyung Paek, Dr. Yeyong Choi and Dr. Yeonsil Kang (Korea), Mohit Gupta (India), Sanjiv Pandita (Hong Kong), and Sugio Furuya (Japan). The subjects they covered included the diagnosis of asbestos diseases, asbestos campaigns by civil society groups, and the suitability of science and technology studies for understanding the asbestos risk. See: Asbestos Problems in Asia.

NGO Discloses Hospital Scandal

Nov 5, 2014

Asbestos contamination in hospitals in the UK, France and Australia has caused asbestos-related disease amongst nurses, doctors and hospital workers. New research by the Seoul-based Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health has confirmed that samples of ceiling tiles taken in October 2014 from 16 general hospitals in Korean provincial towns including Busan, Daegu, Gwangju tested positive for contamination with white (chrysotile) and brown (amosite) asbestos. The researchers found that the tiles exceeded permissible levels by up to 70 times. See: Asbestos found in 16 provincial hospitals.

Asian Asbestos Conference

May 30, 2014

The third international workshop for Asian asbestos victims will take place in Seoul on June 12-13, 2014. Participants will include asbestos victims, campaigners and experts from Korea, Japan and Indonesia who will consider measures to improve the care of and support for asbestos patients in their countries. The sessions have been organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea, the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Related Disease Victims and their Families and the Indonesia Ban Asbestos Network. Sponsorship has been obtained from a consortium of groups including the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. See: Workshop Poster.

Mesothelioma: Research Findings

May 30, 2014

Doctors at the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul undertook a study of 66 pleural malignant mesothelioma patients over an 18-year period beginning in 1995. The age range of the patients was from 28 to 80 years old with an average age of 56.84 years; average overall survival was 15.39 months. One third of the patients underwent a pneumonectomy. Asbestos-exposure data was missing in 65 out of the 66 cases. The researchers concluded that: “The combination of calretinin, Wilms tumor 1, HMBE-1, and thyroid transcription factor-1 may provide high diagnostic accuracy in diagnosing mesothelioma.” See: Pleural mesothelioma: an institutional experience of 66 cases.

Bilateral Action on Asbestos

Jul 12, 2013

Korean and Japanese campaigners on asbestos issues and victims' rights will join medical experts, occupational health researchers, environmentalists and trade unionists at a full day asbestos symposium being held on Sunday, July 14, 2013 at Seoul National University. Subjects which will be considered during the day include strategies for identifying asbestos victims, criteria for the recognition of asbestos-related diseases, the high incidence of asbestos-related disease amongst construction workers and ongoing initiatives in Korea and Japan to tackle a wide range of challenges posed by hazardous exposures to asbestos. See: Poster advertising Asbestos Symposium.

Recognition of Occupational Diseases

Apr 11, 2013

The Korean Ministry of Labor has proposed amending regulations which recognize occupationally-caused asbestos diseases. Patients with larynx and ovarian cancer will now be able to claim compensation for an occupational illness; currently, only sufferers from malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer are eligible. In each case, an occupational history of asbestos exposure or symptoms of asbestosis, pleural thickening or pleural plaques or the presence of asbestos bodies in the sputum will be required for a claim to succeed. In 2011, 450 cases of asbestos-related disease were recognized: 279 mesothelioma, 22 lung cancer, 158 asbestosis.

Asbestos Prohibition for Korean Ships

Jul 16, 2012

A technical information sheet issued by the Republic of Korea on June 25, 2012 confirmed the prohibition of the new use of all asbestos-containing products on South Korean ships. The 15-page guideline (No. 2012-IMO-07), signed by Kim Kyu-seob, Executive Vice President of the Statutory Survey Division of the Korean Register of Shipping, contains compliance advice for surveyors, regulatory administrators, ship owners/managers and ship builders for the construction of all types of new ships as well as repairs on existing ships.

Protest at Canadian Embassy

Jul 3, 2012

Members of the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea took part in a colourful protest today outside the Canadian Embassy in Seoul. Wearing vests made out of sacks from the Quebec LAB chrysotile mine and holding signs calling for the banning of asbestos, asbestos victims and family members expressed their outrage at the $58 million government assistance being given to develop a new asbestos mine in Quebec. The age range of the demonstrators, from 19 to 70, reveals the wide range of support that this issue has in Korea. See: Stop Canada, Death Export.

Partial Victory for Busan Victims

May 10, 2012

The Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, Sugio Furuya, reports a legal victory in the Busan District Court, where the families of two mesothelioma victims who had lived near a Busan asbestos textile factory and three asbestosis victims who had worked at that plant succeeded in their civil case for damages against the company Jeil E&S. Jeil was ordered to pay 60% of the damages for the mesothelioma claimants and 90% of the damages for the asbestosis victims. Cases brought by the victims against the Korean Government and the Japanese asbestos company Nichias did not succeed.

Asbestos Contamination in Soil

May 9, 2012

An investigation begun last year by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) has established that 42% of the soil around three derelict mines in Bibong, Yangsa and Sindoek contained asbestos fibers. Of the 2,512 hectares surveyed, 1,058 hectares were found to be contaminated. Acknowledging that this situation endangered the health of people in the surrounding areas, the MoE has promised to initiate health screening this year for 2,500 at-risk people. In 2013, health check-ups will be extended to include others who live in areas where asbestos contamination may also pose a risk to human health. See: Asbestos Contamination in Soil.

Asbestos Audits in Public Buildings

Apr 24, 2012

The Korean Government, which banned asbestos in 2009, has been under pressure from asbestos victims' groups to improve conditions for the injured and take steps to protect the population from hazardous exposures. Today (April 24), regulations were adopted at a weekly Cabinet meeting led by the Prime Minister which introduced a requirement mandating asbestos audits of larger state and public buildings; in some cases, control measures will now be required. Levels of airborne asbestos near sites being decontaminated will be limited to 0.01 part per cubic centimetre. See: Regulations on asbestos levels strengthened.

Asbestos Victims' Workshop

Apr 5, 2012

On March 20-22, 2012, an asbestos workshop was held in Seoul which brought together asbestos victims from Ban Asbestos Japan and Ban Asbestos Korea to identify common problems and delineate options to improve the plight of asbestos victims. Issues under discussion included the hazard posed by asbestos contamination at sites such as asbestos mines and apartment complexes built near former asbestos processing facilities. This meeting was the latest collaboration in a process that has been ongoing since 2007. A protest was held by workshop participants and local people at an apartment complex sited near an identified source of asbestos pollution.

Honors for Ban Asbestos Activists

Dec 20, 2011

At an inaugural event today in Seoul, awards will be presented to activists in the global fight to ban asbestos. The ceremony is being organized by environmental groups including the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea, the Asian Citizen's Center for Environmental Health and others to recognize outstanding achievements in 2011. Mesothelioma sufferer Rachel Lee, who has campaigned vigorously since her diagnosis, is receiving the top award. In November, Rachel journeyed to India to plead with the government to end asbestos use. Canadian Ban Asbestos Campaigner Kathleen Ruff is also being honored for her "tireless effort and dedication," to exposing her country's asbestos scandal.

Escalation of Asbestos Mortality

Oct 3, 2011

A government report issued on Sunday, October 2, 2011 predicted that deaths from asbestos cancer in Korea will continue rising for another 34 years. According to official sources, between 1996 and 2007, the number of patients diagnosed with mesothelioma more than doubled. Experts claim that the national mesothelioma epidemic will peak in 2045. According to the National Institute of Environment Research, a law which will become effective from April 2012 should prevent up to 20,000 asbestos-related deaths over the next 50 years. See: Asbestos cancer cases to peak in 2045.

Asbestos at Baseball Stadiums

Sep 26, 2011

The Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health today announced test results which confirm the risk posed not only to baseball players and coaches of eight Korean baseball teams but also umpires, stadium staff and spectators who visited the Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul and four other venues throughout the country. In 2010, six million fans attended Korean baseball games. Samples taken at the baseball parks earlier this month found tremolite, actinolite and chrysotile asbestos fibers in concentrations which far exceed the permissible level. The soil used at the parks was sourced from two former asbestos mines in North Gyeongsang Province. See: Korea Times report and Baseball demo picture.

Demonstration in Seoul

Jul 29, 2011

Campaigners from the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) demonstrated today in downtown Seoul in front of the offices of the Hyundai Motor Group to highlight the use by the automotive and steel industries of raw materials contaminated with asbestos. Despite the ban introduced in Korea in 2009 on the import, use and sale of asbestos, there appears to be no attention paid to the hazards posed by exposure to asbestos-contaminated raw materials. Rocks containing asbestos are used for landscaping and building cycle tracks or public parks. BANKO protestors called on the Government to take action to outlaw these dangerous practices.

Launch of New Victims' Initiative

Nov 14, 2010

On November 16, 2010, a meeting of Korean asbestos victims will be held in Hong- Sung City, Kwang-Chun county, formerly the location of the country's biggest asbestos mine. The event, organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea and the Korean Association for Asbestos Victims and Families, will be attended by scores of mesothelioma sufferers and victims of other asbestos-related diseases. Under discussion will be loopholes in the country's asbestos victims' relief law, mobilizing local support for direct action and initiatives to strengthen the campaign by asbestos victims; a new office will be officially opened by the group representing the asbestos-injured from the mining area.

Asian Ministers Discuss Asbestos

Jul 16, 2010

Representatives of Ban Asbestos Korea and the Asian Ban Asbestos Network raised the issue of asbestos with representatives of international agencies and national governments participating in the Second Ministerial Regional Forum on Environment and Health in Southeast and East Asian Countries which took place on July 14 & 15, 2010 in Jeju, Korea. The ban asbestos campaigners highlighted issues such as Canadian financing of a new asbestos mine in Quebec and the rising tide of asbestos exports to Asia. For more information, see the ECO Health bulletin circulated at this meeting.

New Asbestos Law in Korea

Feb 26, 2010

The Korean Parliament passed an asbestos victims' relief law on February 26, 2010 after a sustained campaign by asbestos victims groups and labor federations. From January 1, 2011, the legislation will provide compensation for sufferers of mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer who were environmentally exposed to asbestos.
There are some flaws in the legislation such as very low levels of compensation, which are about 10-20% of those awarded by the occupational insurance system for the same asbestos-related diseases. Campaigners from Ban Asbestos Korea (BANKO) promise to lobby for improvements.