Asbestos Activism in Korea 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As of January 2009, Korea became the second country in Asia to implement a national ban on asbestos use. Despite this achievement, ban asbestos activists continue their efforts to obtain justice for Koreans injured by exposure to asbestos. Government research indicates that their efforts are much needed not only by former asbestos factory workers but by local people who had the misfortune to live near asbestos mines or processing facilities. Recently the Ministry of Environment released results of a survey which showed that 110 out of 215 residents (51%) who lived near a redundant asbestos mine in Hongseong, South Chungcheong Province exhibited symptoms of lung disease; with such a high incidence of respiratory illness, few local people live past the age of 70.1

On January 20, 2009, 200+ people attended a 4 hour session on asbestos which was held at the National Assembly Members Office Building in Seoul. Groups representing former asbestos textile workers and community residents from an asbestos mining area participated in the event which was organized by the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO).


Other notable attendees included four National Assembly Members from two political parties; MP Choo, chairwoman of the Labor and Environment Committee of the National Assembly, addressed the meeting as did:

  • Mr. Sugio Furuya, from Ban Asbestos Network Japan, whose presentation focused on the Japanese relief system for asbestos victims;
  • Lawyer Yong-Cheol Byun who described the difficulties experienced by asbestos claimants in the Korean courts;
  • Dr. Sang-Hyuk Lim who analyzed current asbestos compensation measures in Korea and suggested a provisional framework for a more equitable and efficient system.

Campaigners hope that the discussions which took place on January 20 will raise the level of the national asbestos debate and eventually lead to a national scheme to compensate the victims. The day's activities included a press conference to launch a national signature campaign for the establishment of an asbestos relief law.


BANKO members are optimistic that the events on January 20, which received widespread coverage by the national media, will propel the asbestos debate higher up the national agenda.

February 2, 2009


1 Dong-seop K. The Dangers of Working with asbestos. Jan 13, 2009



       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑